Report No. 29
54. Knowledge of illegality whether relevant.-The passages quoted above1 have been discussed at length in a recent decision of the Supreme Court of India2-3 which also deals with the question, how far mens rea in the sense of actual knowledge that the act done by the accused was contrary to the law, may be requisite. It was pointed out there, that "starting with an initial presumption in favour of the need for mens rea, we have to ascertain whether the presumption is overborne by the language of the enactment, read in the light of the objects and purposes of the Act, and particularly, whether the enforcement of the law and the attainment of its purpose would not be rendered futile in the event of such an ingredient being considered necessary".
On the other hand, where it cannot be said that the object of the Act would be defeated if mens rea is read as an ingredient, courts would be slow to dispense with it4.
1. Hobbs v. Winchester Corporation, (1910) 2 KB 471.
2. Para. 53, supra.
3. State of Maharashtra v. M.H. George, AIR 1965 SC 722 (736, 737), paras. 29 to 32 and 34 (Majority Judgment).
4. Cf. Nathulal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1966 SC 43 (45), para. 4: 1966 Cr Lj 71 (73).
55. English case on mens rea under particular statute.-Examples of reduction or elimination of mens rea are abundant in the case law in England regarding the Food and Drugs Act,1-2-3-4 and the Weights and Measures Acts5.
Judicial construction in England of certain enactments passed for protection of the revenue also furnishes similar examples.6-7
1. Williams Criminal Law, The General Part, (1961), p. 218, para. 77.
2. Craies, Statute Law, (1963) pp. 540 and 545.
3. Halsbury Laws of England, 3rd Edn., Vol. 17, pp. 484, 485, para. 900 (901), and p. 506, para. 937.
4. See case-law reviewed in Hobbs v. Winchester, (1910) 2 KB 471 (478, 480).
5. Anglo-American Oil Co. Ltd. v. Manning, (1908) 1 KB 536 (541), Channell, J.).
6. Cf. Davies v. Harvey, 1874 LR 9 QB 433.
7. For an analysis which has now become classic, see Wright J.'s judgment in Sherras v. De Rutzen, 1895 QB 918 (921).
56. In India, a striking example of modification of the ordinary rule regarding mens rea is the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act1, section 19(1) of which provides, that (subject to certain qualifications), it shall be no defence in a prosecution for an offence pertaining to the sale of any adulterated or misbranded article of food, to allege merely that the vendor was ignorant of the nature, substance or quality of the food sold by him, or that the purchaser, having purchased any article for analysis, was not prejudiced by the sale2. It has been held3, that under this Act even the sale of any article to a particular customer on the understanding that the customer is to use it only for animals, is punishable. In England also, provisions of the corresponding statutes are given a wide interpretation4.
1. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (37 of 1954).
2. See Mangaldas v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1966 SC 128 (133), para. 14.
3. P.P. v. Palanisami, AIR 1965 Mad 98 (99), para. 3 (Ramakrishnan J.).
4. The English cases are cited in Kenny, Outlines of Criminal Law, (1962), p. 42.