Share & spread the love

Intoxication in IPC refers to a condition where a person’s mental and physical state is affected due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs. It is commonly known as being intoxicated. When intoxicated, they cannot discern right and wrong and may not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions. They have difficulty controlling their behaviour and may react in unpredictable ways.

From a legal standpoint, alcohol intoxication is often defined as having a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 5.4-17.4 mmol/L. A constant blood alcohol level above 0.80% is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal.

What is Intoxication in IPC?

Intoxication in IPC refers to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The IPC recognises that intoxication can affect a person’s mental capacity and judgment, potentially impacting their ability to understand the nature and consequences of their actions. The IPC addresses intoxication concerning criminal liability and includes provisions that consider both voluntary and involuntary intoxication.

Intoxication is covered by general exceptions, specifically outlined in Chapter IV of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Generally, individuals may be relieved of criminal liability for certain reasons, such as intoxication, insanity or consent.

However, in these cases, the burden of proof lies with the accused to establish their claim of exemption. This differs from the usual scenario where the prosecution carries the burden of proof to convict the accused of a criminal offence.

The underlying principle behind this concept is to ensure that an innocent person is not held responsible for a crime unless guilt is proven. Sections 85 and 86 of the IPC address the general exception of intoxication in more detail.

Involuntary Intoxication in IPC– Section 85 

This Section 85 of the IPC pertains to situations where a person cannot exercise judgment against their own will due to being poisoned. In such cases, the person cannot be held liable for any offence committed while under the influence of the poison, provided that the substance causing intoxication was administered to them without their knowledge or against their will.

This provision specifically applies to instances where the individual is involuntarily intoxicated, meaning that the substance was forcefully given to them or they were unaware that it possessed intoxicating properties. The person must have been intoxicated at the time of the act or prior to its commission. Furthermore, it is essential that they were unaware of the wrongfulness of their actions or that they violated the law.

Essentials of Section 85 for Intoxication as a Defence in IPC

According to Section 85 of IPC, certain circumstances may result in the act of a person not being considered an offence. To qualify for intoxication as a defence in IPC, the following conditions must be met:

  • The person must perform an act.
  • They must be unable to understand the nature of the act.
  • This inability is a result of their intoxication.
  • The intoxication must have been administered without their consent or knowledge.
  • The incapacity should be present at the time of the act.

Based on these criteria, it is evident that an offence or act should occur while the accused is under the influence of the intoxicating substance. The accused should be unaware that what was administered to them is an intoxicant or a substance mixed with an intoxicant. The defence of intoxication can only be invoked when the person did not intend to commit the act.

When determining the guilt of the accused, the intoxication’s quantity and circumstances should be considered. The nature of the crime and the harm caused should also be evaluated. Additionally, the degree of violence exhibited by the accused at the time of the offence may be considered a significant factor.

Voluntary Intoxication in Indian Penal Code– Section 86

Certain considerations come into play when a person commits an offence requiring intent or knowledge while intoxicated. In such cases, unless the person was administered the intoxicating substance without their knowledge or against their will, they may be treated as if they had the same knowledge as they would have had if they were sober.

If the act committed while intoxicated involves specific knowledge or intention, the person can be prosecuted for the offence as if they were not intoxicated. Both knowledge and intention become important factors in such situations.

Suppose the person can understand the consequences of their actions, causing harm to others knowingly or is in a coherent state of mind. In that case, they will be held accountable for the offence as any other individual would be.

Section 86 of the Indian Penal Code addresses the knowledge and intent of a person who commits an intoxicated act. This section pertains to cases of involuntary intoxication in IPC. It is important to note that willful intoxication cannot be used as a defence in committing a crime.

However, there are instances where voluntary intoxication in IPC may be considered a mitigating factor. One such instance is when a specific intent is required for a particular crime.

If the accused is heavily intoxicated to the extent that they cannot perform the act, they may be exempted from the offence. For example, if the act committed under the influence of alcohol does not result in murder but rather culpable homicide not amounting to murder due to the absence of a specific individual. However, if the person, despite being highly intoxicated, can still form the intention to commit murder, they will be held responsible for the crime.

Essentials of Section 86 

Section 86 of the Indian Penal Code consists of the following elements:

  1. The presence of specific intention or knowledge.
  2. Influence of an intoxicating substance.
  3. Administration of the intoxicating substance without knowledge or against the person’s will.

This section primarily deals with cases where knowledge and intention are crucial. It is established that an intoxicated person possesses the same level of knowledge as a sober individual, as intoxication does not affect one’s understanding. However, the variation lies in the person’s intention, which can differ depending on the circumstances of each case.

In the case of R v Kingston, the respondent was involved in a dispute with a couple regarding a business matter. The couple sought to tarnish the respondent’s reputation and enlisted a boy named Penn to carry out their plan. Aware of the respondent’s pedophilic tendencies, they orchestrated a situation where the respondent called the boy into a secluded room.

Penn administered drugs to the boy, rendering him unconscious. Subsequently, the respondent entered the room and, intoxicated as a result, engaged in sexual acts with the boy while photographs were taken.

The boy testified that he had no recollection after the drug was administered. The court found the accused guilty of the offence, as he was not so heavily intoxicated that he could not form the necessary intention for committing the specific act, despite involuntary intoxication in the Indian Penal Code.

The element of mens rea, essential in this case, was established. The accused argued that he could not have formed an intention under the given circumstances, but the court rejected this defence.

Involuntary intoxication in Criminal Law excludes mens rea

In the Director of Public Prosecutions vs. Beard case, the accused had committed the heinous crimes of rape and murder of a thirteen-year-old girl and claimed intoxication as a defence in IPC. The court held that intoxication in Indian Penal Code could only be a valid defence if it prevented the accused from forming the necessary mental element, mens rea. Involuntary intoxication, in this context, excludes the mental element.

Another example is the case of Mavari Surya Satyanarayana vs. the State of Andhra Pradesh. In this case, the accused suspected his wife of infidelity and fought with her. On that day, he consumed a large amount of alcohol and poured kerosene on his wife to set her on fire.

Although his wife managed to escape, the accused pursued her, caught her and again poured kerosene on her, resulting in her death. The accused used intoxication as a defence in IPC, claiming he was not in control of his actions. However, the Supreme Court rejected this defence, stating that he had failed to burn his wife and was still capable of pursuing and catching her to commit his heinous act.

The Supreme Court found the accused guilty and converted his punishment from Section 304 Part II (a 10-year sentence) to Section 302 (death or life imprisonment). In some cases, the accused may have a diseased state of mind where they cannot exercise proper judgment or control their actions. M’Naughton’s rules were invoked in this case, emphasising that a person’s intention must be considered at the time of the crime.

A similar point is illustrated in the case of DPP v. Beard. In this case, the accused was intoxicated and raped an underage girl. He placed his hand over the girl’s mouth and the other on her throat, causing her death by suffocation. He claimed that he was unable to comprehend the consequences of his actions. However, the court found him guilty of murder under Section 300 because the act of suffocation was separate from the act of rape and demonstrated an intent to kill the girl.

Therefore, we can conclude that voluntary intoxication may be a mitigating factor in some cases. However, in most instances, it is considered an aggravating factor, as individuals may be encouraged to commit crimes and evade punishment by relying on the defence of voluntary intoxication in the Indian Penal Code. For regular offenders, voluntary intoxication can be an aggravating factor, as increased alcohol consumption can lead to a higher crime rate.

Foreseeability Test in Cases of Intoxication As a Defence in IPC

The test laid down to determine liability for an offence considers the loss of control that occurs when a person consumes an intoxicating substance. When an individual willingly consumes alcohol, it implies a certain level of negligence and a desire to relinquish control. If a person wanted to maintain control, they could refrain from further consumption, demonstrating their intention. However, this is not applicable in cases of involuntary intoxication, which is considered a general defence under IPC.

A person will not be held liable for an offence if they cannot comprehend the foreseeable events that would lead to the commission of the offence. For instance, if an intoxicated person commits murder and immediately attempts to flee the scene, it indicates that the person can walk properly and is aware of the potential consequences of being found guilty of murder. In such a scenario, the person would be held responsible and liable for murder.

The Burden of Proof in Cases of Intoxication

In cases of intoxication in IPC, the burden of proof lies with the accused, not the prosecution. The accused must demonstrate that their intoxication was involuntary and did not consume the intoxicating substance voluntarily. Additionally, they must prove they had no knowledge or intention to commit the specific act. The accused is responsible for presenting the facts and circumstances that led them to commit the offence and supporting their defence.

Dutch Courage Rule

This concept is based on the understanding that people sometimes consume alcohol not only for pleasure but also to cope with depression and escape worldly pain and distress. By consuming alcohol, individuals imagine themselves overcoming these challenges with bravery and gaining courage. Drinking alcohol creates a sense of self-resistance and impairs the ability to think clearly, which can lead to engaging in illegal activities. 

Before consuming alcohol voluntarily, individuals may plan and gather the courage to carry out certain actions. This principle is often called the “rule of courage,” and it applies specifically to cases of voluntary intoxication in Criminal Law. It demonstrates that a person intends to perform a specific act and plans for it in advance.

Landmark Cases on Intoxication in IPC

The landmark cases dealing with intoxication in Indian Penal Code are:

Basudev v State of Pepsu 

In this case, a retired military officer (the accused) and the deceased attended a wedding ceremony in a village where a mid-day meal was served. Some people sat on chairs while others sat on the floor. The deceased, a 13-year-old boy, was sitting on a chair. The accused approached the boy and asked him to vacate the chair, but he refused. In his intoxicated state, the accused pulled out a pistol from his pocket and shot the boy.

The injuries proved fatal and the boy died at the scene. During the trial, the accused claimed that his high level of intoxication in the Indian Penal Code prevented him from understanding the circumstances of his actions. However, the court rejected his defence, reasoning that the accused was capable of walking and, therefore, had the ability to foresee the consequences of his act. The court found the accused guilty of murder under Section 300 of the IPC.

Shankar J v. State of West Bengal 

In this case, the defendant, under the influence of intoxication, began verbally abusing the victim. When the victim asked the accused to leave, the accused became enraged and stabbed the victim seven times, resulting in the victim’s death. The accused then claimed that his actions were influenced by intoxication. The court responded to his defence by stating that being drunk does not excuse a person from the crime of murder.

Venkappa v. State of Karnataka

In this case, the accused became angry when his wife refused to withdraw compensation money awarded in their deceased son’s name. Under the influence of intoxication, the accused set his wife on fire, causing her death. The accused invoked the defence of intoxication in IPC. However, the court rejected his plea, noting that his intoxication was voluntary.

Bablu Mubarik Hussain v. State of Rajasthan

In this case, the Supreme Court examined Section 85 of the IPC and held that evidence of drunkenness must be accompanied by proof that the accused could not form wrongful intent. Merely proving that the accused’s mind was affected by intoxication leading to violent behaviour does not disprove the natural consequences of the accused’s actions. The court rejected the defendant’s plea as the act committed was brutal and diabolical.

Bhagwan Tukaram Dange v. State of Maharashtra

In this case, the accused and his father, under intoxication, burned the accused’s wife to death for dowry. Both accused individuals were charged under sections 302 and 498A of the IPC. The accused and his father arrived at the house heavily intoxicated and demanded two hundred rupees from the victim, who refused and was assaulted by both.

The court dismissed the counsel’s contention that the case should be covered by Section 304, Part I or II due to the accused’s intoxication. The court ruled that the accused was correctly convicted under Section 302 of the IPC.

Difference Between Section 85 and Section 86 of the IPC

Section 85 of the Indian Penal Code deals with offences committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol and caused by fraud or coercion. It provides a general exception that a person involuntarily intoxicated when committing a criminal offence will not be held liable.

On the other hand, Section 86 of the IPC deals with offences committed while being self-induced intoxicated. Under this section, a person who voluntarily becomes intoxicated will be held liable for criminal offences unless they can prove that they lacked the required intention or knowledge due to their intoxicated state.

In the case of Bablu alias Mubarik Hussain v State of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court examined Section 85 of the IPC, considering evidence of intoxication and whether the accused could form the necessary intent. The court found that the accused should be held responsible for his actions as he had the requisite criminal intent. These provisions do not protect individuals who voluntarily consume drugs or alcohol and subsequently lose their mental capacity due to their actions, i.e., self-induced intoxication.

It is important to note that self-induced intoxication does not serve as a complete defence in criminal cases. Individuals may still be held liable for their actions if they voluntarily consumed substances knowing that it could impair their mental state and lead to criminal behaviour.

IPC SectionsSection 85Section 86
DescriptionDeals with offences committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol caused by fraud or coercion.Deals with offences committed while being self-induced and intoxicated.
LiabilityInvoluntarily intoxicated person not held liable for offences.Voluntarily intoxicated person not held liable for offences.


The Indian Penal Code addresses the issue of intoxication in its provisions. Sections 85 and 86 of the IPC deal with the concept of intoxication and its impact on criminal liability.

Attention all law students!

Are you tired of missing out on internship, job opportunities and law notes?

Well, fear no more! With 45,000+ students already on board, you don't want to be left behind. Be a part of the coolest legal community around!

Join our WhatsApp Groups (Click Here) and Telegram Channel (Click Here) and get instant notifications.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.