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State of Mind, Knowledge and Intention

State of Mind

Certain offences are culpable on the basis of the state of mind of the accused. In order to prove such offences, certain facts which show the existence of a particular state of mind are relevant and admissible as evidence. Section 14 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 deals with the proof of “Facts showing the existence of any state of mind or of body or bodily felling”. It runs as follows:

Facts showing the existence of any state of mind, such as intention, knowledge, good faith, negligence, rashness, ill-will or goodwill towards any particular person, or showing the existence of any state of mind or body or bodily felling, is in issue or relevant.

Explanation–1: A fact relevant as showing the existence of a relevant state of mind must that the state of mind exists, not generally, but in reference to the particular matter in questions.

Explanation–2: But where, upon the trial of a person accused of an offence, the previous commission by the accused of an offence is relevant within the meaning of this section, the previous conviction of such person shall also be a relevant fact”.


  1. Fact in Issue: The question is whether A has been guilty of cruelty towards B, his wife. Relevant Facts: Expressions of their feeling towards each other shortly before or after the alleged cruelty are relevant facts.
  2. Fact in Issue: The question is what was the state of A’s health at the time an assurance on his life was affected. Relevant Facts: Statements made by A as to the state of his health at or near the time in question are relevant facts.

State of Mind: Facts showing the state of mind constitute Intention, Knowledge, Good Faith, Negligence, Rashness, ill will or Good will. For the purpose of showing the existence of state of mind, it is not possible to provide direct evidence. Brain, C.J. observed, “It is common knowledge that thought of a man cannot be tried for devil knoweth not what passes in one’s mind.” But it is now well established that the state of one’s mind is as much a fact as the state of his digestion. If need not be directly proved by confession by the accused or by the evidence of a person who had an admission from the accused about his intention.

State of Body or Bodily Feeling: The condition of one’s body or his bodily felling may help a lot in finding the truth. Thus, where it is alleged that A was murdered by administering poison to him his statements regarding his condition and bodily felling may help in finding whether poison was given to him and which type of poison was administered.

Explantion-1 (Specific State of mind): As per Explanation 1 to the section, the evidence must be pertaining to the specific state of mind that pertains to the case at hand and not that of general reputation. Thus, anything that has a distinct and immediate connection to the case at hand is admissible.

In “R v. B (RA)1)” the accused was convicted of assaulting his grandsons on the basis of pornographic magazines found in his possession and his sexual proclivities. The subsequent appeal filed by him was allowed and the Court observed that the evidence of pornographic magazines and the subsequent cross-examination of the accused showed a mere tendency and had no probative value due to which it should not have been admitted as evidence in the first place.

Explanation-2 (Previous Conviction): As per Explanation 2 to the section, in a case where the previous commission of an offence is relevant, the fact that the accused was previously convicted for the said offence would be relevant under the section. However, the question of previous convictions being used in subsequent cases is often debated under various provisions of the Evidence Act.

For instance, in “Emperor v. Alloomiya Husan2)” the accused was arrested and convicted under the Bombay Prevention of Gambling Act for keeping a common gaming house. The conviction by the Magistrate was based upon the fact that the accused was previously convicted on multiple occasions under the Gambling Act. Upon appeal, the decision was upheld and the fact pertaining to previous convictions was held to be relevant and admissible under Section 14 of the Evidence Act.

Accidental or Intentional Act

Section 15 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 speaks about, “Facts Bearing on Question whether Act was Accidental/ Intentional”. It runs as follows:

When there an act was accidental or intentional or done with a particular knowledge or intention, the fact that such act formed part of a series of similar occurrences, in each of which the person doing the act was concerned, is relevant”.

Illustrations: A is accused of burning down his house in order obtain money for which it is insured. The fact that A lived in several houses successively, each of which he insured, in each of which a fire occurred, and after each of which fire A received payment from a different insurance office, are relevant, as tending to show that the fires were not accidental.

Rule: Section 14 and 15 of the Evidence Act are overlapping. Section 15 is an application of the general rule laid down in Section 14. It may be noted that evidence of similar facts can be given when it will go to establish a state of mind or mens rea which is either a condition of liability or is otherwise relevant. Such evidence falls both under Section 14 and 15.

Section 15 is an exception to the general rule that the evidence of similar facts is not relevant. This exception became necessary to prove system or design or to overthrow the defence of accident in cases of “habitual crimes” by an offender. Thus, where A falsely represented to B that he was the manager of a mercantile firm, and obtained money for the purpose of deposit from B, the fact that A had made similar representations to C and D and obtained sums from them, is relevant.

About the Author

  • Adv. Abhishek Gupta (Natraj Legal Solutions)
  • Delhi High Court
  • Ph: 9999052336,8700521407
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1997 2 Cr App R 88
1903 28 Bom 129: 5 Bom LR 805

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