The Concept of Good Faith in Criminal Law

The author discusses the concept of good faith in criminal law and also feels that this provision can act as a fair option in serving immunity to many people who are taking risk for the benefit or someone else or the society at large.

Meaning of Good Faith

The concept of Good Faith is an abstract that embraces a sincere belief or motive without any malice or the desire of bias in it. It derives from the translation of Latin term bona fide, and hence is used often interchangeably in the court. On a regular basis, we explain good faith as something which is not bad or which does not contains cruel intentions but what exactly good always remains undefined. It is believed that, deriving a proper definition of Good Faith is difficult, and hence even in the Indian Penal Code; the term is defined in a negative way. The concept of Good faith under IPC is defined as, “Nothing is said to be performed or believed in good faith which is done or believed without due care and interest.”[1] In a criminal trial understanding the concept of good faith is very important as it reflects the intention of the person committing the crime. The court explained the definition in the case of Muhammad Ishaq v. The Emperor[2]. The court held that wherein an action was taken on behalf of a defendant with a belief that the decree would be passed in his favor is illegal as he could have discovered the fact that he did not enjoy any such favorable decree if he had inquired with more care and caution.

The General Clauses Act (X of 1897) has described the concept of Good Faith, in a positive manner as, “A factor will be deemed to be executed in ‘good faith’ where it is in fact performed honestly, whether it is done negligently or not”. The element of honesty that’s introduced by using the definition under The General Clauses Act is not always delivered by means of the definition of the Code. The simple notion by means of itself is not always enough. It needs to be shown that the belief had a rational foundation and became not only a blind simple belief. This is wherein the element of due care and attention plays a critical position. The proper point to be decided isn’t always the reality of the allegation but whether the accused turned into knowledgeable and had desirable motive after due care and interest to trust the allegations.

Indian Penal code defines the term in an extraordinary way and mentions the essentials being due care and interest of the person. The provision under IPC makes no reference to the moral factors of honesty and right motive which can be concerned inside the popular importance of the concept of good faith and which might be predominant as per the definition enacted within other Acts of the Legislature. Hence, even if a person is honest and committing an act, this might be regarded as Good faith under the General Clauses Act but under criminal law, he would be held negligent and not acting in good faith.

In the case of SukarooKobiraj[3], Kobiraj performed a surgery on a patient suffering from internal piles by cutting him out with an ordinary knife which was followed by unstoppable bleeding. The continuous bleeding led to hemorrhage and the patient lost his life the next day. Kobiraj plea of good faith was rejected and he was punished under Section 304-A[4] of the code with imprisonment of 1 year.

The Conflict

The two definitions are contradictory to each other, as one struggles to put emphasis on the intention of the person and the duty of care followed, the other explains it in a much simpler way with an absolute emphasis on the honesty of the person. So even if an act is done honestly but the actions are done negligently, under the criminal law it cannot be deemed fit as an act done in good faith.

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Good faith implies no longer simplest an upright mental mindset and a clear conscience, but the doing of an act, showing that everyday prudence has been exercised in keeping with the standards of a reasonable man or woman. The law does not assume the identical degree of care and interest from all individuals. It varies with the position they occupy. Consequently, where a constable questioned a person endeavoring to satisfy himself whether or not his suspicions had been well-based or not, was not glad by way of the answers he received, even though such answers could have glad a greater wise man, or one in a better position, it was held that the law does no longer precise the same care and attention from individuals regardless of the position they occupy.

The question of desirable faith is always a query of reality to be decided in accordance with the proved information and situations of each case the standard of “due care and interest” is not the same old of the hypothetically “reasonable man.” it is the standard of a person whose “good faith” is on trial.

Elements of Good Faith

Good faith is not feasible if any action is performed without due care and interest. This can be tested by the following elements: –

(i) The nature of the act carried out by the accused.

(ii) Degree and significance of the act performed with the aid of the accused.

(iii) Due care and interest accomplished by means of the accused.

Due Care and Attention

The expression of due care and attention in Section 52 of the Indian Penal Code has nowhere been defined. The courts have tried to explain it through various judgments based on logical reasoning. A good intention and reasonable care in performing any action are the important factors taken into account for calling an act being done in good faith. Another aspect taken into consideration is the capacity and the intelligence of the person committing a crime. The concept of Good faith requires due care and interest, i.e., care and attention expected from an affordable guy. In the case of a guide of a defamatory count number, the actual supply of statistics on which the accused has acted needs to be taken into consideration. In which the publication is based upon flimsy materials and there may be no evidence, that the accused made any inquiries earlier than the guide, the publication can’t be said to be made in excellent faith. The meaning of good faith in law and in layman differs drastically.

The meaning of “good faith” differs in law from that for a layman. For a layman it is mere action of honesty and clear intentions whereas the description of good faith in law goes beyond mere consideration of the moral factors. If a man takes upon himself a workplace or responsibility requiring ability to care, he has to display not just a very good aim but such care and ability as the obligation fairly demands its due discharge.

The word “due care and attention” implies proper attempt to reach the truth and not the geared up the reputation of an unwell-natured belief. The question of good faith is a query of reality and must be accrued from the encompassing circumstances. Mere real belief with none reasonable grounds for believing is not simultaneous with good faith, but excellent faith does not require logical infallibility but due care and warning which should in each case be considered almost about the general situations and the potential and the intelligence of the character whose behavior is in question.

As discussed before in the case of Sukaroo Kabiraj v. the Emperor, the court held Kabiraj guilty for his negligent behavior leading to the death of the patient. On mere grounds of good intention, that the doctor had in past performed such surgeries successfully does not free him from the seriousness of his actions. He was held legally liable for his actions.

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The accused in the case Hayat v. Emp.,[5] saw a stooping child at a place which was believed to be haunted since long in the village where he lived. Without discovering the child’s mistake, the accused killed him. The court punished him for murder and rejected his plea of good faith.

Plea of Good Faith as Defense

  1. Any act done under a wrong impression or a mistake of fact in good faith is believed to be bound by law under Section 76 of the code. As in the case of State of West Bengal v. Shew Mangal Singh[6], the respondents were held liable under joint liability in charge of murder of the defendant. The High court of Calcutta acquitted the respondents on the grounds that, they were obeying to the instruction of their superior officer and were bound to it. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the appeal held that since the orders were justified and lawful, the acts of the police to open fire was acceptable as per the circumstances and cannot be held liable for the same.
  2. Another defense of good faith is stated under Section 77 of the code. Any act was done by a judge acting within his powers in a good faith believing an act not to be an offense. In the case of Surendra Kumar Bhatiya v. KanhaiyaLal and Ors.[7], the court observed that a collector using his power under the Land and Acquisition act was neither a judge nor was in the capacity to exercise the powers judicially and hence cannot plead for defense of good faith.
  3. If a judgment is passed by a judge within the jurisdiction of the court and the judgment is in force, then in such case, any act done even outside the jurisdiction in a good faith acts as a defense under Section 78 of the Code.
  4. Any act done by a person because of a mistake of fact and performs an act in good faith and believes it to be protected in the eyes of law is protected under Section 79 of the code. The principle “Ignorantia fact iexcusat ignorantia juris non excusat”[8] is followed under this provision. As in the case of R v. Prince[9], the accused believed that the girl was of major age and took her along without the consent of the parents. It was later discovered she was 16 years old and despite the fact that the judge himself believed her to be a major, the accused was held liable for the mistake of law and not fact. Unlike this, in the case of Keso Sahu[10], the accused brought a man along with his cart to the police station under the impression that offense of smuggling was going on. After investigation, it was found out that the man was innocent. Despite the fact the man was innocent the accused wasn’t held liable as he brought him in good faith and was mistaken of fact and not law.
  5. If a person performs an act in defense or in benefit of a person with his consent, implied or express and does not intend to cause death, then he cannot be held liable for his actions and can plea for good faith. This defense is stated under Section 88 of the code. For example, when a doctor performs surgery knowing there is a risk to his life but performs the surgery to protect him with his consent cannot be held liable for his actions in case the person dies.
  6. Similar protection is granted as per Section 89 for the action of a person protecting the other person, who is either a minor or of unsound mind with the consent of his/her guardian.
  7. Section 92 gives leverage in the above two provisions by stating that any person acting in the benefit of the other person will be exempted if it is proved that the act was done in good faith and there was no time to obtain his/his parents/ his guardian’s consent.
  8. Anything communicated to a person for his own good irrespective of the fact that it might have a negative impact on the person cannot be held against the person communicating. For eg. A doctor tells a patient that he is suffering from a chronic disease and needs immediate surgery won’t be responsible if he commits suicide or takes any such drastic steps. The person is protected under the Section 93of the code.
  9. Culpable homicide will not be considered murder in a case wherein the offender is a public servant, or aiding a public servant or acting for public justice and in course of this exceeds his power granted by the law. He will be taken to perform such acts in the concept of good faith and won’t be liable for the death of the person. Under Section 300 exception 3, his acts are protected for the due discharge of his duty.
  10. The exception under Section 339 states that if a person in the concept of good faith thinks that he has right over private land or water and in this belief commits act obstructing the property, he won’t be held liable for the same. In the case of Madala Perayya v. Varugunti Chendrayya[11], the water well was owned by both the accused and the complainant. The accused restricted the complainant from using the well and stopped his bullock’s movement. Since they were the co-owners of the well, this act of the accused was wrong and was held liable and the plea of good faith was rejected.
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Conclusion

The expression ‘good faith’ is far off from being an absolute and obvious, as its interpretation is still not stable. For a layman, it is a basic standard in the behavior of a person and hence is an easy one. Whereas when it is a question of law, only moral factors are not taken into consideration and it becomes difficult to define the same. A sense of responsibility and understanding seen in a person becomes the foremost detail and acts in the protection of the person. The test of observing the ‘concept of good faith’ is observing the ‘due care and attention’. The author feels that this provision can act as a fair option in serving immunity to many people who are taking risks for the benefit of someone else or the society at large. The concept of Good faith is relative to a sure quantity and needs to be determined through the occasions below which imputation is made. The fact that the imputation is not set up to be actual does not suggest an absence of good faith. The insistence is upon the exercise of due care and interest. Recklessness and negligence are dominated out. The standard of care and interest of the route varies from case to case.

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[1]“Section 52 of the Indian Penal Code”

[2] Allahabad High Court, LQ 1914 HC 0586.

[3]SukarooKobiraj v. The Empress, (1887) ILR 14 Cal 566.

[4] Section 304A – “Causing Death by negligence”.

[5] Hayat Khan and Ors. V. Emperor, AIR 1932 Lahore 243.

[6]AIR 1981 SC 1917.

[7] Crl.A.No. 175/2009, SLP (Crl.) No. 6213/2006

[8] Mistake of fact is admissible and not mistake of law.

[9] (1875) LR 2 CCR 154

[10] KesoSahu v. State (1997) Cri LJ 1725

[11] 1954 CrLJ 283 Mad