Anshika Parth, a 5th-year law student from Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT School Of Law) has written this Article “Exceptions of Doctrine of Doli Incapax”.
The theory of “doli incapax” holds that children under a specific age lack the mental ability to conduct crimes. While the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), does not officially address the theory, it expresses it in Sections 82 and 83 of the IPC. Section 82 assumes that children under the age of seven are incapable of committing crimes and, therefore, grants them immunity from criminal prosecution. Section 83, on the other hand, makes an exemption for children aged seven to twelve, acknowledging their potential to be held criminally accountable provided they have the necessary maturity to grasp the nature and consequences of their conduct. This article examines the exceptions to doli incapax under the Indian Penal Code, analyzing legislative requirements, relevant case laws, and the broader context of juvenile justice in India.
It highlights the difficult balance of protecting children’s rights while also holding them accountable for their acts, with a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), is the cornerstone of Indian criminal law, comprising a wide range of offences and punishments. While the IPC does not expressly acknowledge the theory of “Doli Incapax,” it does include rules concerning the criminal culpability of juveniles and children who commit crimes. Doli Incapax, a Latin phrase that means “incapable of doing any harm or incapable of committing a crime” refers to the belief that children under a particular age lack the mental capacity to grasp the repercussions of their acts and, as a result, are incapable of committing crimes.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) is a comprehensive piece of law in India that defines and imposes punishments for a variety of criminal acts. While the word “Doli Incapax,” which refers to the presumption of incapacity of children under a particular age to commit crimes, is not used, the IPC recognizes minors’ special position and establishes specific rules and defences respecting their criminal culpability. This paper will go into these laws and look at how the IPC deals with the criminal liability of juveniles and children who commit crimes.
This article will look at the exceptions to “Doli Incapax” under the Indian Penal Code, diving into the clauses outlined above and evaluating how they deal with juveniles and children’s criminal culpability. It will also explore other pertinent legal issues and consider the larger context of juvenile justice in India. The “Doli Incapax exceptions are critical for achieving a balance between child protection and liability for their conduct, with a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
DOCTRINE OF DOLI INCAPAX
If a child between the ages of seven and twelve commits an infraction, they can use this rule as a defence. However, one must prove that the child was not mature enough to understand the nature and implications of their activities at the time.
SECTION 82 AND 83 OF THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 1860
“82. Act of a child under seven years of age: Nothing is an offence which is done by a child under seven years of age.”
“83. Act of a child above seven and under twelve of immature understanding: Nothing is an offence which is done by a child above seven years of age and under twelve, who has not attained sufficient maturity of understanding to judge the nature and consequences of his conduct on that occasion.”
ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF SECTION 83 OF THE INDIAN PENAL CODE 1860
- The act must be done by a child between the ages of 7 and 12.
- The child must be too young to understand the nature and implications of their actions.
- The person must have the incapacity at the moment they perform the act.
For ex, in the case of “Marimuthu 1909”: In this instance, a 10-year-old child removed an eight-anna silver button and offered it to her mother. The court ruled that she was not liable for stealing since the circumstances did not show that she had matured enough to understand the nature of her actions.
SECTION 83: ACT OF A CHILD ABOVE SEVEN AND UNDER TWELVE OF IMMATURE UNDERSTANDING
Section 83 of the IPC concerns the act of a child over the age of seven but under the age of twelve who lacks the maturity of knowledge to determine the nature and consequences of their behaviour in a given scenario. It indicates that a youngster of this age group, lacking the necessary maturity to understand the wrongfulness of their conduct, commits no offence.
For ex, in the case of “Abdul Satar V. The Crown 5: Two accused youngsters, both below the age of 12, forcefully entered two stores to steal and claimed a lack of maturity as a defence. However, the court determined that their actions of breaking the shop’s locks indicated a level of maturity, leading to their liability for the offence.
CHILD BETWEEN 7 AND 12 YEARS OLD:
To establish that a kid aged 7 to 12 exhibited mature understanding and intellect, the prosecution must show that the youngster understood the wrongfulness of their actions and was capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Moreover, This entails evaluating the child’s mental and intellectual capacities, which frequently rely on psychiatric examinations and expert testimony.
In cases where a child below the age of 12 years commits a grave offence, such as murder or rape, the court can consider the application of the principle of “Doli Incapax”.
The court may decide to treat the child as “Doli Incapax” and not impose criminal liability.
However, the court also has the discretion to consider the totality of circumstances and hold the child responsible, depending on their maturity and understanding of the act.
MATURITY OF UNDERSTANDING
Between the ages of 7 and 12, a child’s culpability is solely determined by their maturity, not their age. The decisive element is mental capacity rather than chronological age. For example, an 11-year-old who commits a crime without knowing its nature may avoid accountability, but an 8-year-old who understands the nature of the act might be held liable. Because each act differs in its type and manner, determining a child’s maturity or comprehension is dependent on the individual circumstances surrounding each crime. As a result, the responsibility assigned to a child in this age range varies from case to case, stressing the need of assessing individual competence in deciding accountability.
Some generic characteristics that might illustrate the fundamentals of the child’s guilt are as follows:
- The child’s initial activities following the conduct of the offence.
- The child’s conduct during the investigative procedure.
- The child’s behaviour during the investigation.
AGE OF CRIMINAL LIABILITY
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) is a comprehensive legislation in India that defines and imposes punishments for a variety of criminal acts.
While the word “doli incapax,” which refers to the presumption of incapacity of children under a particular age to commit crimes, is not used, the IPC recognizes minors’ special position and establishes specific rules and defences respecting their criminal culpability.
Unlike in several other countries, the Indian Penal Code does not define a certain age for determining criminal culpability.
Instead, it takes a more nuanced approach to the problem of criminal liability in the case of juveniles.
According to the International Penal Code, children under the age of seven are considered mentally incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions, and therefore, they cannot commit any offence.
Section 82 of the IPC expresses this principle.
When a child between the ages of seven and twelve is charged with committing an offence, the prosecution bears the burden of proving that the youngster could grasp the nature and consequences of their acts. Moreover, The prosecution must show that the youngster understood what they were doing was wrong and could distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the conduct.
For ex, in the case of “Marsh V. Loader, 1863”: The defendant apprehended a child attempting to take a stick from his premises. The child’s age was under 7 which rendered him incapable of understanding the consequences of his actions, leading to a verdict of not guilty.
EXCEPTION WITH EXAMPLE OF SECTION 83 IPC, 1860
Suppose a youngster of eleven years old intentionally sets fire to a neighbour’s property, inflicting severe damage. The youngster knew the risks of starting the fire and that it may cause damage to the neighbour’s property.
- In this case, the youngster is between the ages of seven and twelve, and Section 83 of the IPC comes into play.
- The court will have to decide if the youngster was mature enough to appreciate the wrongfulness of their acts and the probable repercussions of setting fire to the house.
- If it is proven that the youngster lacked the mental capacity to appreciate the nature and seriousness of the conduct, they can be held criminally accountable.
- The prosecution bears the burden of proof that the kid possessed the requisite maturity of understanding at the time of the offence.
- This may entail providing evidence such as the child’s comprehension of property rights, awareness of the potential repercussions of their acts, and recognition of the moral and legal wrongfulness of lighting the fire.
- If the court finds that the youngster lacks the maturity to appreciate the nature and implications of their actions, the concept of doli incapax will shield them, and they will face no criminal charges.
- Section 83 shows the Indian Penal Code’s varied attitude to adolescents between the ages of seven and twelve.
- It recognizes that children of this age might have a wide range of mental aptitudes and comprehension.
As a result, the law provides for an individual assessment of the child’s maturity to establish criminal liability to ensure fair and reasonable treatment while also holding those capable of comprehending their acts accountable for their actions.
Case law relating to Exceptions of Doctrine of Doli Incapax:
Hiralal Mallick V. State of Bihar (1977)
Three siblings, including a 12-year-old, murdered a person after a quarrel involving their father. The violent act involved slashing the victim’s throat with a sword before fleeing the scene. The group faced homicide charges and received a unanimous conviction under Section 302 and Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Subsequently, the case was appealed to the Supreme Court.
- If the accused can claim the exception under section 83 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
- If the actus rea of a child can account for mens rea?
The Indian Supreme Court ruled that a child’s actus rea cannot be the sole basis to determine their understanding of conduct. Quashing the high court’s judgment, the Supreme Court allowed the application of the general exception under Section 83. As the child was twelve years old and influenced by adults, the court held that the child lacked the maturity to comprehend the consequences of their actions, In conclusion to this: The accused, a twelve-year-old boy, committed a criminal conduct. Given the child’s mental competence, the defence of infancy under Section 83 of the IPC might be invoked. In this instance, the youngster was Doli Incapax, who lacked the purpose to commit a crime after being persuaded and pushed to do so by two others. He was not mature enough to understand the significance of his acts because of his age.
The trial court sentenced the defendant to four years in prison, rejecting the premise that actus rea alone does not prove malevolent intent. The evidence strongly indicates that someone duped and misled the youngster into performing the act. The maximum sentence in such a case was only one year, emphasizing the difference in punishment.
This case underscores the need of considering children’s mental capacity and the effect of external variables when assessing criminal culpability, especially when they are under the age of doli incapax.
The concept of “doli incapax” is important in the Indian Penal Code because it provides a framework for determining the criminal responsibility of children under a certain age range. Although not explicitly stated in the IPC, Sections 82 and 83 presume incompetence for minors who commit crimes. Section 82 exempts children under the age of seven from criminal prosecution, citing their inability to grasp the implications of their conduct. Section 83, on the other hand, recognizes the possible liability of children aged seven to twelve, subject to their maturity and grasp of the nature and consequences of their actions.
Between ages seven and twelve, a child’s mental capacity needs individualized assessment to ascertain criminal responsibility. Courts must consider whether the youngster recognized the wrongfulness of their behaviour and could discriminate between right and wrong at the time of the violation. This evaluation takes into account elements such as the child’s immediate behaviour following the crime as well as their behaviour during the inquiry.
Recognizing the variability in mental capability among children, the Indian Penal Code does not specify a set age for criminal culpability. As a result, the law promotes a nuanced approach that maintains justice and equitable treatment.
Finally, the “doli incapax” hypothesis and the exceptions granted in Sections 82 and 83 of the Indian Penal Code strike a careful balance between preserving children’s rights and making them accountable for their acts. It emphasizes the importance of evaluating a child’s particular capability for deciding criminal culpability, with a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society. This method is still necessary for India to have a just and equitable juvenile justice system.
Also Read: Defences of accident under section 80 of IPC, Click Here!
 Das, S. (2022, February 15). What is “doli incapax” in which section of IPC it lies? Retrieved from https://strictlylegal.in/what-is-doli-incapax/Exceptions of Doctrine of Doli Incapax
 Indian Penal Code, 1860. (1860, October 6). Retrieved from https://www.indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/2263?sam_handle=123456789/1362
 Parihar, S. (2023, June 25). Infancy as a General Exception – Section 82 and 83 IPC. Retrieved from https://www.writinglaw.com/infancy-as-exception-ipc/
 L. (2023, July 22). Doli Incapax. Retrieved from https://lawbhoomi.com/doli-incapax/
 Thirst, L. (2021, May 23). Crime By Minor? : Section 82 & 83 – All You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://legalthirst.com/crime-by-minor-section-82-83/#Essential_elements_under_Section_83
 Mahawar, S. (2022, January 19). All you need to know about doli incapax – iPleaders. Retrieved from https://blog.ipleaders.in/all-you-need-know-about-doli-incapax/#Kakoo_v_The_State_of_Himachal_Pradesh_1976_SC
 Infancy and Criminal Liability. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-9148-infancy-and-criminal-liability.html