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Differences Between Intention and Motive

The concepts of intention and motive are essential in the fields of law, psychology, and philosophy, each with its own distinct definitions and implications. It is vital to grasp the subtle differences between the two, as they have significant impacts on human behaviour, especially in legal contexts.

The difference between Intention and Motive are as follows:
  • Intention refers only to the immediate purpose with which an act is done. Motive is the ulterior purpose of the act.
  • Intention has no emotion, whereas Motive has emotions like love, fear, hatred, etc.
  • A person commits theft of some biscuits to satisfy his hunger. Here the motive is for good purpose namely satisfying his hunger but his immediate act of theft being with bad intention is punishable.
  • Some actions might not have an intention. Every act has some kind of motive (good or bad).
  • Determining the criminal responsibility of the accused largely lies in their intention, which sets apart an act done on purpose from one done accidentally. In contrast, motive resolves the question of why the accused has committed a crime.
  • When intention is in question, it plays a fundamental role that must be demonstrated to establish guilt. However, motive does not necessarily need to be present and does not always have to be proved in order to determine the criminal's culpability.
  • Intention is the explicit purpose or goal that accompanies an act of committing a crime, while the motive can be concealed or understood through implicature.
  • In criminal cases, intent refers to the purpose for which a person commits an unlawful act, whereas motive is the reason or cause that impels one to perpetrate it.
  • The case of State of U.P. v. Lakhan (1997) 9 SCC 679 is an example where the court explained that motive is a personal notion, which is to be found through indirect evidence in a case. The intention of the act too can be traced from this circumstantial evidence alone.
  • The term intention pertains to the goal or objective behind an act, representing a person's deliberate wish or determination to attain a particular result. For instance, an individual buying a knife may have the intention of using it for cooking, self-defence, or causing harm, depending on their mindset and situation.
  • On the other hand, motive refers to the underlying cause or impetus behind an action, providing insight into a person's motivations, interests, or worries. For example, a person may engage in theft due to financial desperation, greed, or a craving for material possessions, with these motives underlying their behaviour and giving perspective to their actions.
  • It seems that intentions are just ideas stored in our brain, and we might not always find them with a clear vision. One way to figure out what they are is by observing what happens around us. Motives can be personal � about feelings or goals, or they can be about things outside of us: society's expectations, money, the state of mind. They're useful for understanding why people act the way they do.
  • In legal settings, intention plays a vital role in determining responsibility and assigning appropriate levels of criminal liability, with different legal systems recognizing varying degrees of intent such as specific, general, or recklessness. For instance, in a murder case, establishing the defendant's intention to cause harm or death is crucial in proving the crime of murder as opposed to manslaughter.
  • While motive may not directly impact guilt or innocence, it can affect legal proceedings by providing insight into the defendant's mental state, potential behaviour patterns, or underlying reasons. The defendant's motive for committing a crime, such as jealousy or revenge, can be presented as evidence to support the prosecution's argument regarding the defendant's responsibility.
  • Behaviour is heavily influenced by intention, as it directs and guides individuals in their actions and choices. It represents their deliberate decisions and objectives, propelling them towards particular results. On the other hand, motive plays a more indirect role in behaviour by providing a motivating force or reward for actions. Although it may not dictate the exact path to take, it can significantly affect an individual's choices and priorities. For instance, a student's intention may be to study diligently in order to excel academically, while their motive could be driven by the desire to attain a successful career or earn approval from their parents.
  • In ethical and moral contexts, priority is often given to intention as it showcases an individual's moral responsibility and accountability for their actions. Intention is assessed based on its adherence to ethical values and principles. Motive may also factor into ethical assessments, especially when considering the underlying justifications for actions and their ethical consequences. However, motives alone cannot excuse or justify unethical conduct. For instance, an individual who donates to charity with the intention of aiding others may be viewed more positively than someone who donates solely for personal gain or recognition, even if their actions appear identical on the surface.
  • To summarize, intention and motive are separate components of human conduct that aid in comprehending the reasons behind people's actions. Intention pertains to the conscious objective behind an action, while motive delves into the underlying incentives and rationales that influence behaviour. These two concepts have significant implications in fields such as law, psychology, ethics, and morality, shaping our beliefs about human control, obligation, and liability.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab
, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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