• Legis Scriptor

Intention and Motive

Authored By Siddharth Punj

Keywords: Motive; Intention; ulterior objective; criminal liability


Crime is an undesirable part of human society. Every crime contains primarily two elements which are; Mens Rea (guilty mind) and Actus Reus (guilty Act). The subject-matter of Mens Rea is reliant on the motive and intention of the accused of the criminal act. Some people believe that intention and motive are akin but there is a thin line which makes them different from each other. In this article we are attempting to discuss the difference between the said two terms, their comparison, differences and judicial interpretation by the court of law from time to time.


People often interpret Intention and Motive as same but they are much diverged in their own ways. The Intention is an eagerness to bring about something designated[1]whereas the Motive is may be considered as a willful desire that leads a person to do any certain act[2].The premier distinction between Intention and Motive is that the intention depicts the mental state of the convict which means what is going on in his mind whilst committing the act of crime. And the Motive interprets motivation which means what results a person to do any act.

Now we will thoroughly discuss the above two phenomenon.


Intention is an action of the will. It could be said that it is the final stage of mental state to commence an act or omission. In criminal law, the Intention is construed as the conscious aim that urges an individual to commit a wrongful act which may be prohibited by the law.

In other terms, Intention depicts the will or plan of an individual. In this scenario when an activity is executed deliberately, it concludes the willingness of an individual to do the act as such and not a mishap or slip-up, where that individual is totally learnt and conscious about the outcomes of the demonstration. That is the reason intention is the crucial component to prove the culpability.

Intention is the purpose or objective with which an act is done. It is the presentiment of the act, attached with the desire of it. Such presentiment and being willful the cause of the act, in as much as they fulfill themselves through the implementation of desire. In intention, the performer opts, concludes, settles to bring a prescribed harm into being, he willingly employs means to that end[3].

In not subject of whether the manifestation is submitted with a decent purpose or a dreadful one. On the other chance that an individual flourishes something intentionally and wittingly, which is prohibited by the court of law, it will mount up to the criminal charge.

According to Salmond, “An act is intentional if, and in so far as, it indwells the fact, the idea actualizing itself in the fact because of the yearning by which it is guided”[4].


The motive process can be portrayed as the concealed objective behind the execution of a demonstration that urges an individual's purpose. To put it bluntly, it is the incitement, for example, the explanation, which prompts the denounced to associate oneself in the criminal act.

The motivation procedure behind an illegal offense is set down as redundant, in learning a person's culpability, since it just describes the charged reasons, for acting or halted from acting in a specific way. In any case, it is necessary for police examination and diverse phases of the case.

Motive is generally used with relevance to Criminal Law to interpret about an individual’s actions or reactions against any act in asunder way for example, to mount the prosecution's claim that the arraigned committed the offense. If an individual guilty of homicide was the recipient of a life insurance policy on the departed victim, the prosecution might contend that cupidity was the motive for the killing of the victim.

Comparison – Intention and Motive

According to Stephen, “Intention is an action of the desires administering an blatant act whereas motive is the inside feeling which urges in the execution of the yearning, the covert desire of the person, for example if an individual murders another, the intention is the guide of the act which explains death whereas the motive is aim which the person or the killer had in sight, e.g., the contentedness of some emotional desire, for example vengeance etc[5].

Intention refers to the expeditious object, while motive considers the covert or concealed objective which is at the origin or root of the intention. It could also be interpreted that intention is the means and motive is the end of any act. But naivety of the motive may not justify where intention will justify.

According to Austin, “the intention is the goal of the act and the motive is its origin.[6]” The covert intent is the motive of the act. The instant intent is contemporaneous, with the illegal act itself. The concealed intent or motive is that part of the total intent which lies extrinsic to the scope of the wrongful or illegal act. In actual fact motive is a specie of intent[7]. According to Williams, “in criminal law, it is typically appropriate to use the terms ‘intention’ apropos to intention as to the necessary element of the guilty act or actus reus, and the term ‘motive’ is subject to the intention in the virtue of which the actus reus was performed.[8]”

Judicial Interpretation

The House of Lords in Bradford Corporation v. Pickles[9], Lord Halsbury held that a person has the right to do any ‘lawful’ act does not matter how wrong the motive of the act is.

The Indian court of law has also the same view in the matter of Vishnu Basudeo v. T.H.S Pearse[10] and Town Area Committee V. Prabhu Dayal[11], the dictum had opinioned that if any act is lawful and pure then the motive of the act is of small importance.


While intention determines if the denounced carried out the wrongful act intentionally or unintentionally, the motive process potrays the inquiry, why the accused performed the wrongful act. Basically, rationale results in aim, in this way; the last arises out of the previous.

In each criminal matter, the intention of the litigant is premier, on the basis that, the culpability or innocence must be indicated with it. Then again, the motive procedure does not surmise an excellent job in concluding the culpability or innocence.






[1]See Intention in Black’s Law dictionary 8th edition [2]See Motive in Black’s Law dictionary 8th edition [3] Hall, Jerome; General Principles of Criminal Law (2nd ed.) 112. [4] Salmond, Jurisprudence (11‘" ed.) 410. [5] Stephen, History of the English Criminal Law. Vol. II. [6] Austin, Lectures on Jurisprudence, (4lh ed. 1879) 165. [7] Hitchler, The Law of Crimes, 87 (1939). [8] Williams, G., Criminal Law, 42. [9] 1895 AC 587 [10]AIR 1949 NAG 364 [11]AIR 1975 All 132