Doli Incapax is a Latin term that means “incapable of doing harm”. This term has been used to describe a presumption of innocence for children in Criminal law in most countries.
The basis of this presumption lies in the theory of Criminal responsibility. Theory has been built upon the theory that a person should be held criminally responsible only for acts he intends to commit.
In the Indian Criminal Procedure, Doli Incapax recognizes that there is a line (age line) below which children are not truly capable of criminal behavior because they are incapable of the requisite moral and cognitive process. In the Indian Criminal procedure this line is 7 years of age.
Criminal Procedure (CrPC) also provides for presumption of innocence in favor of children above 7 and under 12 years of age. In this case, if the prosecution can procure evidence and prove contrary then even a child below 12 years (12-7yrs) can be prosecuted. This immunity is termed by scholars as “qualified immunity”.
The age of absolute responsibility is lowered in India from 14 to 12 years. 18 years has been fixed as the ordinary period for attaining majority.
From 14 to 18 years a child is liable only if he has an insight into both the legality and punishability of the act.
Culpability is required for criminal law to be imposed and this (culpability) is generally assumed to be present. The culpability may be escaped through excuses as insanity or duress. Every person who has the ability to exercise reason and who can distinguish between right or wrong has to bear the responsibility of the wrong that he did while causing damage to another person.
The damage caused by a minor can be just as real as that of a grownup but before coming to a conclusion or trying a minor same as that of an adult a general test needs to be performed to ascertain the child has adequate understanding of the likely consequence of the act.
Any contributory negligence by a child is to be judged by the standards of a child and not as per the criterion of reasonable adult.
Doli Incapax for few countries :
Italy: 14 years