Good Faith (Section 52 Indian Penal Code, 1860) – Summary

Good faith has not been defined in the Indian Penal Code in positive terms. Section 52 of the Code gives only a negative definition by saying that “nothing is said to be done or delivered in “good faith’ which is done or delivered without due care and attention.”

Absence of good faith, according to the Code, only means carelessness or negligence. Mere good faith in the sense of simple belief with any grounds for believing is not sufficient; the belief must be some reasonable, not an absurd belief; that is, there must be some reasonable ground for it. Good faith requires due care and attention.

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The phrase “due care and attention” implies genuine effort to reach the truth and not ready acceptance of an ill-nurtured belief.

It has been held that when a question arises as to whether a person acted in good faith, and then it devolves upon him to show not merely that he had a good insertion but that he exercised such care and skill as the duty reasonably demanded for its due discharge.

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The question of good faith varies in different cases and must be considered with reference to the circumstances of the case and the capacity and intelligence of the person whose conduct is in question.

The law does not expect the same care and attention from all persons regardless of the position they occupy.

It varies in different cases. Thus, where a police constable suspected bona fide that a person was carrying stolen property and he arrested the accused on getting an unsatisfactory reply, it was held that the constable acted in good faith and was protected under Section 79 of the Code.

The above negative definition of “good faith” differs materially from its ordinary connotation where a thing is deemed to be done in good faith when it is done in fact honestly. Even Section 3(20) of the General Clauses Act gives expression to popular connotation by defining “good faith” as under: “A thing shall be deemed to be done in “good faith” where it is, in fact, done honestly whether it is done negligently or not.”


But we have seen above that under the Indian Penal Code this definition is inapplicable, as, according to the Code, if a thing is done honestly but negligently without due care and attention it is not done in good faith. In fact, under the definition in the Code, the question of honesty is immaterial.

(b) The facts have been taken from the case of Sukaroo Kobiraj, [1887, 14 Cal. 566], according to which the Kaviraj was held guilty of an offence punishable under Section 304-A of the Indian Penal Code for causing death by doing a rash and negligent act as he was admit­tedly uneducated in matters of surgery and his undertaking to perform a dangerous operation was not an act done in good faith, i.e., done with due care and attention.

(c) The accused has rightly been charged under Section 304-A for, though he was under a mistake of fact, he had acted without due care and caution and hence could not be held to have acted in good faith.

Plea of good faith as defence:

The Code recognizes plea of “good faith” as good defence in the following cases:


1. Act done by a person who, by reason of mistake of fact, in good faith, believes himself to be bound by law to do it (S. 76);

2. Act of a judge when acting judicially in the exercise of any power which, in good faith, he believes to be given to him by law (S. 77);

3. Act done pursuant to the judgment or order of a court, if done whilst such judgment or order remains in force, notwithstanding the court may have had no jurisdiction to pass such judgment or order, provided the person doing the act in good faith believes that the court had such jurisdiction (S. 78);

4. Act done by a person who, by reason of a mistake of fact, in good faith, believes himself to be justified by law in doing it (S. 79);

5. Act done in good faith for the benefit of a person even without that person’s consent (S. 92);

6. Communication made in good faith even though harm may ensue to the person to whom it is made for the benefit of that person (S. 93);

7. Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender being a public servant or aiding a public servant or acting for the advancement of public justice exceeds the power given to him by law and causes death by doing an act which he, in good faith, believes to be lawful and necessary for the due dis­charge of his duty (S. 300, Exception 3);

8. Obstruction of a private way over land or water which a person, in good faith, believes himself to have a lawful right to obstruct is not an offence of wrongful re­straint (Exception to S. 339) and

9. Expression in good faith of any opinion respecting the conduct or character of a public servant, in the discharge of his public duties, respecting the conduct or character of any person touching any public question, respecting the merits of any case decided by a court or of conduct of witnesses and respecting the merits of any performance of an author, censure passed in good faith by person having lawful authority over another, accusation preferred in good faith to an authorized person, imputation made in good faith by a person for protection of his or other’s interests and caution con­veyed in good faith for the good of the person to whom conveyed or for public good. (S. 499).


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