Author: Deeksha Gupta.


Chapter IV (section 76-106) of Indian Penal Code provides for General Exceptions which makes an offence a non-offence. In other words, they provide for the excuses that can be taken by a person accused of committing an offence defined under Indian Penal Code or  any special law or local law when it satisfies the conditions laid down in section 40 Indian Penal Code.

The general Exceptions enacted by IPC are of universal application but for the sake of brevity of expression, instead of repeating it in every provision of IPC, section 6 has been put in place which provides that every definition provided under IPC is subjected to the general exceptions provided in Chapter IV of the code.

One of the important characteristic of general exceptions is that the burden of proof to prove that the case lies within one of the exceptions provided under chapter IV of IPC lies on the accuses as opposed to the general rule of burden of proof resting upon the prosecution.[1]

One of the exceptions provided by the code is the defence of involuntary intoxication provided under section 85 and 86 of IPC.


Section 85 of IPC provides a complete defence to the person who committed an offence in the state of intoxication, if he at the time of doing it was by reason of intoxication, unable to understand the nature of the act or that his act was contrary to law, provided that the intoxicating substance was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.[2]

Therefore, the provision of the Indian Penal Code provides defence of involuntary intoxication. The point which needs to be noted is that voluntary intoxication is no defence.[3] A person cannot consume a drink or become drunk, commit an offence and then afterwards take the defence of intoxication. Voluntary intoxication is not a defence in UK as well.[4]

Secondly, the drunkenness (involuntary) should be to such an extent that the accused is not able to understand the nature and consequences of his acts. In Director of Public Prosecutor v Beard[5] the accused raped a 13 year old girl and while raping the girl, he placed his hand upon her mouth and thumb upon her throat which caused the death of the girl due to suffocation. The defence took the plea of intoxication. The court held that drunkenness is no defence unless it is proved that the accused was incapable of forming the intention required for committing the offence. In the present case, the accused was help guilty of rape as well as murder of the victim.


Although voluntary drunkenness is not a defence, it is a factor which needs to be taken into consideration in basically two types of cases –

  1. In case the offence is of such a nature that a particular intent is required to commit that offence and it is proved in the court of law that the extent of the drunkenness of the accused was such that it was impossible for him to form that particular intent. For example, if a person commits murder under the influence of heavy intoxicating substance due to which he was unable to form the necessary specific intent required under section 300 IPC, section 86 would impute the necessary guilt to him and he would be liable for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and not of murder.
  2. Where habitual drunkenness has resulted in such a mental condition of the accused that he is not capable of understanding the nature and consequence of his acts or that his acts are contrary to law. In this case, the defence of insanity will come into play. In other words, insanity produced by any reason including the habitual drinking will be included under the defence of insanity.


Section 86 of the IPC deals with the cases of voluntary drunkenness and provides that in cases of voluntary drunkenness knowledge will be imputed to the accused in the same manner as if there is no drunkenness.[6] The point to be noted is that only knowledge is imputed and not the necessary intention. In other words, the section imputes the drunken men (voluntary) with the same knowledge as that of a sober man if the facts and circumstances of the case does not give rise to same intention. The imputation of the knowledge is a legal fiction and constructive intention cannot be raised. Although the first part of the section talks about both, intention as well as knowledge but the later part only talks about the knowledge. If the parliament wanted the imputation of intention as well it would not have omitted the term from the later part of the section.[7]


A combined reading of section 85 and 86 if Indian Penal Code makes it clear that section 86 is an exception to the general rule provided under section 85. The provisions make it quite clear that the act done under the influence of voluntary intoxication will still be an offence notwithstanding the fact that the accused was drunk to such an extent that he was not able to understand the nature and consequences of his act or that his act is contrary to law. On one hand section 85 covers all kind of offences while on the other hand, section 86 only deals with the offences requiring a specific knowledge or intention for their commission. However, degree of intoxication required by both the sections is same. Intoxication short of degree i.e. if the accused is not drunk to such an extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of his acts or that his act is contrary to law, will not entitle the accused for the benefit of defence of intoxication. Act of accused of walking a distance to the house of the victim and concealing the weapon and his wearing apparels showed that he was conscious and capable of understanding the nature and consequences of his acts. Thus, he was held not to be entitled for the benefit of defence of intoxication.[8]

[1] Shankar Narayan Bhadolkar v State of Maharashtra AIR 2004 SC 1996

[2] Indian Penal Code, 1860, s. 85.

[3] Chet Ram v State 1971 CrLJ 1246.

[4] Lipman (1970) 1 QB 152.

[5] (1920) AC 479.

[6] Indian Penal Code, s. 86.

[7]Pal Singh (1917) P R No 28 of 1917.

[8] Shankar Jaiwara v State of West Bengal (2007) 9 SCC 360.

About the Author: Deeksha is a third-year law student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow.

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