A, a beggar who has been starving for the past one week requests B, a rich man, food to eat. B refuses wantonly. The next day A dies due to hunger. State whether B is liable for any offence.
B is not liable for any offence. The fundamental principle of penal liability is based on the latin maxim “Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”. An act does not become a crime unless done with a guilty mind. The guilty mind and the act must concur to constitute a crime.
Actus reus consists of human action, either positive or negative, circumstances at the time of commission of crime as specified by law and the result of the conduct.
Mens rea consists of the voluntary conduct of the human being, and the result of the conduct must be forseen.
In the given problem:
- Though omission of an act is also considered as an act, there should be an obligation or duty on the part of B to provide food to A, and B should have breached the obligation. Here, B has no duty to provide food to A.
- B has no guilty mind to starve A and he has not done the act of refusing to give food with an intention to cause death of A.
- A man is liable for such acts, the consequences of which is foreseen by him. Here, B has not foreseen the death of A and hence he is not liable for the death of A.
- There are subsisting and intervening causes for A’s death, i.e., B had refused food. A had not taken steps to secure food from other sources and hence, A died. B’s refusal to give food for one day alone cannot be the reason for A’s death.
For all the above reasons, B is not liable for the death of the beggar A.