Accident – Section 80 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Explained!

(a) Without criminal intention or knowledge;

(b) In the doing of a lawful act—

(i) by lawful manner,

(ii) By lawful means, and

(iii) With proper care and caution.


(i) A is at work with a hatchet; the head flies off and kills a man. Here if there was no want of proper caution on the part of A, A has committed no offence.

(ii) A and B go a hunting. They take up certain positions and lie in wait for the game. A hears a rustle and thinking that an animal is moving about fires in the direction of the rustle. The shot reaches B and causes B’s death. B’s death is the result of an accident or misfortune.

(iii) A takes up a gun and without examining whether it is loaded or not points it in sport at B and the gun goes off killing B. Such a death is an accident or misfortune and A had no criminal intention or knowledge in pointing it at B, but since there is an absence of proper care and caution on his part his act shall not be excused under Section 80. The position would have been otherwise if A had reason to believe that the gun was not loaded and he had acted with proper care and attention.

(iv) A shoots at a bird in B’s house in order to steal it and kills B. The act of A is not lawful as he intended to commit theft and he is not protected for shooting under this section.

(v) A and B are fighting. C intervenes to separate them and in doing so C is stabbed by a spear in the hand of A. A’s act in stabbing C is illegal. It is not a lawful act.

To invoke the help of Section 80, there should be the absence of both criminal intention as well as criminal knowledge. No act is per se criminal unless the actor did it with criminal intent. As the object of criminal law is to punish only serious infractions of the rules of society, it cannot punish a man for his mistakes or misfortune.

If people in following their common occupations, use due caution to prevent danger, and nevertheless happens unfortunately to kill anyone, such killing is homicide by misadventure.

Accident is not of itself a defence to a civil suit, unless it was only an accident but also a misfortune. The word “accident” in the section does not mean mere chance. It rather means an unintentional, an unexpected act.

In common parlance, “accident” means an event that occurs without one’s sight or expectation and in the same way law also adopts it.

Actually accident is really an event which occurs all of a sudden and no man of ordinary prudence could anticipate it. If consequence is caused by an accidental act, the conscience of nobody would allow to punish the doer, because accidental act is not his act at all. He does not will it; and therefore he is not responsible for the consequence.

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