Section 120A

The following article has been written by Ishani Samajpati, pursuing B.A. LL.B. (Hons) under the University of Calcutta. This article contains a detailed discussion of Section 304 IPC which lays down the punishments to be awarded for ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’.

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Section 304 is one of such important yet little-known sections which lays down the detailed directions for punishments to be awarded to anyone guilty of ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ (Section 299 of IPC).

Chapter XVI of IPC deals with such offences where the human body is affected or the offence costs an individual’s life and the punishments to be awarded in such cases. Section 304 of IPC provides the punishments for one of such offences of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

This article seeks to give an exhaustive view of Section 304 of IPC through the following paragraphs along with a few of the relevant case laws. Before that, for the sake of clarity, a brief discussion of homicide and its classification, culpable homicide, murder and the distinction between them is enumerated below.

Homicide and its classification

Apart from natural death, it is also classified in another five categories. They are – 

  1. death caused by accident 
  2. commitment of suicide or being abated to commit suicide 
  3. conduction of homicide (where one individual causes the death of another) 
  4. undetermined death when the cause of the death cannot be ascertained, and 
  5. pending when the cause and nature of death is yet to be determined. 

The term ‘homicide’ has been derived from two Latin terms – ‘homo’ meaning man and ‘cida’ meaning killing. Therefore, homicide means the killing of an individual by another. Homicide is further classified into two types:

Lawful homicide

Lawful homicides include homicides which involve ‘justifiable’ and ‘excusable’ homicides. Examples include performing homicide in self-defense, executing an individual under the death penalty, killing under euthanasia in countries where it is legal etc.

Unlawful homicide

Unlawful homicides include those homicides which are illegal in the eyes of law in a civilised society. Two of the most common unlawful homicides include:

  • Culpable Homicide
  • Murder

Definition of culpable homicide according to IPC

The term, culpable homicide, has been defined in Section 299, the very first Section under Chapter XVI of IPC. The offence of culpable homicide is committed when an individual causes death to another intentionally or by an act with the knowledge that the act is likely to cause death.

According to Section 299 of IPC, an individual commits the offence of culpable homicide when:-

  • That individual does an act which causes another individual’s death intentionally.
  • That individual causes any ‘bodily injury’ which results in the death of another.
  • That individual acted with the intention to cause death; or with the knowledge that the act may amount to death but without intention.

Murder : definition in IPC

The definition of murder has been provided in Section 300 of IPC. It is the gravest form of offence committed. According to Section 300, a murder is a type of culpable homicide where the death is caused intentionally or a bodily injury is caused with the intention to cause death.

Public Prosecutor v. Suryanarayana Moorty (1912) 

In this one of the earliest cases, a sensitive question of whether an offence is to be categorised under culpable homicide or murder was decided.

Facts of the case

The public prosecutor, representing the government appealed against Suryanarayana Murthi, who was acquitted against the charge of murdering a girl, Rajalakshmi.

The accused took out considerable insurance on Appala Narasimhulu. In order to obtain those large sums of money, he decided to kill him. The accused asked Appala to meet at his brother-in-law’s house and gave him sweetmeat mixed with poisons containing arsenic and mercury. Appala, on the other hand, ate a portion and threw the rest of it after realising. 

Rajalakshmi, the accused’s niece and daughter of the brother-in-law, a girl of 8 or 9 years of age, took the thrown away sweetmeat without the knowledge of the accused. She then shared it with another child.  While Appala recovered, the two children died from poisoning.

Two accounts of this incident were presented to the Court. One was that Rajalakshmi asked the accused for sweetmeat. The other account was that Rajalakshmi took the remaining sweetmeat thrown away by Appala without the accused’s knowledge. The Court accepted the second account as true.

Issue of the case

While the accused was awarded transportation (relocation to a secluded place, especially to the Andaman Islands as punishment during British Rule) for an attempt to murder Appala Narasimhulu, the main issue was to decide whether the accused was guilty of murdering the children or was guilty of committing culpable homicide.

Observations

The Madras High Court held that the accused had the intention to cause death undoubtedly.

The question of whether the accused is guilty of murdering Rajalakshmi or not is based on inferences drawn from the presented facts.

The Court held that at the time of eating, the accused was absent from the scene. He could have prevented Rajalakshmi from eating if he was present. However, the mixing of poison with sweetmeat was the main reason from which death was caused. So the accused is not absolved from the responsibility. 

It was also discussed and widely debated whether his offence falls under Section 299,  Section 301 of IPC which deals with culpable homicide causing the death of another person other than whose death was originally intended or under Section 302. 

But since the accused originally intended to cause death, it was held that the accused was liable for the murdering of the children even though he only intended to kill Appala.

Judgement

The order of acquittal of the charge of murder by the Sessions Judge was set aside. The accused was convicted under Section 302 of IPC instead of Section 304. However, the accused was not sentenced to death but was awarded ‘transportation for life’.

Differentiation between Murder and Culpable Homicide as illustrated in IPC

Both the cases of murder and culpable homicide involve the killing of any individual. Hence, for any accused to be tried under either of these, one common essential is DEATH. The basic differences between them are as follows:

SubjectMurderCulpable Homicide
Sections in IPCMurder has been defined in section 300 of IPC.Culpable homicide has been defined in section 299 of IPC
Degree of offence committedMurder is considered to be the gravest offence committed and falls under ‘culpable homicide of 1st degree.’Culpable homicide usually involves offences of two different degrees. They are culpable homicide of 2nd and 3rd degree respectively. 
Knowledge and IntentionThe offence of murder consists of intention while the presence of knowledge is obvious.The offence of culpable homicide is committed either with both knowledge and intention or with only knowledge but without any intention. 
PunishmentPunishment for murder has been defined under Section 302 of IPC. Punishment includes the death penalty or life imprisonment with a fine.Punishment for murder has been defined under Section 304 of IPC. Punishment includes life imprisonment and fine or rigorous imprisonment depending on the gravity of the offence.
CategorisationAll offences under murder fall under the category of culpable homicide.Culpable homicide has a broader ambit and all culpable homicides are not murders.
ExplanationIf an individual commits the an act which causes death to another or any bodily injury which causes death with prior preparation, it is considered murder since the intention is to kill and not out of sudden provocation or wrath.Culpable homicide is the act where an act by an individual causes a death or a bodily injury which causes death without premeditation, in an unplanned conflict, or in an unplanned outburst of rage as a result of someone’s provocation or instigation. 

“All murders are culpable homicide, but all culpable homicides are not murders.”

In any specific case, it is first examined whether a culpable homicide amounts to murder or not. While the culpable homicide is the ‘genus’ and the murder is the ‘specie’. Hence, it can be inferred that “all murders are culpable homicide, but all culpable homicides are not murders”. 

This statement has been reiterated in several cases by the Supreme Court of India.

State of Andhra Pradesh v. Rayavarapu Punnayya & Another (1976) 

The Supreme Court of India in this case stated that the distinction between ‘murder’ and ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ “has vexed the courts for more than a century”. It was also stated that ‘culpable homicide’ is genus and ‘murder’ is the specie. All ‘murder’ falls under the category of culpable homicide’ but the vice-versa is never true.

Facts

  • There were factions between three major communities namely Reddys, Kammas and Bhatrajus in Rompicherla village.
  • A clash, political in nature, took place between two communities namely Reddys, supporting Congress and Kammas, supporting Swatantra Party in the Panchayat election of 1954. A member of Kamma community was murdered and nine from the Reddy community were prosecuted for the murder.
  • In another incident, the deceased, Sarikonda Kotamraju, leader of the Bhatrajus, had a meeting with his party-men to protect themselves from the aggressions of the opponents in the cattle shed belonging to one of the partymen. The opposition members blocked the wall.
  • The deceased went to the police station with the owner of the cattle shed (PW 1) to lodge a report on July 22, 1968.
  • The deceased, PW1 & PW2, boarded a bus on the next day and the accused persons also boarded the same house after some time. On seeing the accused persons, the PW1 saved himself.
  • The deceased, a man of 55 years, requested the accused persons to leave him but they started beating him mercilessly. He became unconscious and succumbed to his injury which was grievous in nature. He gave a dying declaration to the Judicial Magistrate.
  • The trial judge convicted the first two of the accused persons under Section 302 and under Section 302 read with Section 34, IPC and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
  • The High Court, on appeal, altered the conviction under Section 304, Part II, IPC and sentenced each of them to ‘five years rigorous imprisonment’.

The State appealed in the Apex Court after obtaining special leave.

Issue

The first accused (Respondent 1) died during the pendency of the appeal. The decision of whether another accused should be tried under offence of murder or culpable homicide was to be decided.

Observations of the Supreme Court

The Apex Court held that the fact the attack was premeditated or planned earlier is incorrect. 

The injuries sustained by the deceased were also of compound nature. The death was due to “shock and haemorrhage due to multiple injuries” which was caused by the accused. 

Judgement

The Apex Court opined that the High Court passed an erroneous order by altering the convictions and that the accused should be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Rampal Singh v. State Of U.P (2012)

In this case, the Supreme Court also held the same opinion regarding the distinction between murder and culpable homicide.

Facts

  • Ram Kumar Singh, the deceased and Rampal Singh, the appellant both served in the Army as Lans Naik. 
  • The deceased came to his village on leave from Agra, his posting. 
  • He erected a Ladauri on his vacant land. Rampal Singh broke the constructed Ladauri and started throwing garbage. 
  • The deceased again came to his village on leave. 
  • Before returning, they were chatting with relatives where Rampal Singh, the grandson of the deceased’s uncle, was also present.
  • The deceased asked him the reason for demolishing his Ladauri and throwing garbage. 
  • The heated discussion resulted in an altercation. They started grappling and the deceased threw him on the ground.
  • The appellant announced his intention to shoot the deceased and the deceased remarked as to whether the appellant had the courage to shoot him, which was confirmed by his wife at the Court. 
  • After this, the appellant shot with his rifle and escaped. 
  • After primary treatment at the village, he was taken to the army hospital where he died.
  • The accused was charged with the offence of murder under section 302 of the IPC.

Issue

The issue before the Supreme Court was to decide whether the offence was murder under Section 302 of IPC or culpable homicide amounting to murder after sudden provocation under Section 304 (Part I) of IPC. 

Observations of the Hon’ble Supreme Court

The Apex Court once again reiterated its decision as held in the case of State Of Andhra Pradesh vs Rayavarapu Punnayya & Another that “the ‘culpable homicide’ is genus and ‘murder’ its species. All ‘murder’ is ‘culpable homicide’ but not vice-versa.”

The Court further held that there was a heated exchange of words between them as well as a provocation on the part of the deceased. 

Hence, the appellant was provoked to shoot his rifle which resulted in the death of the deceased. 

Judgement

The offence of the appellant was altered from Section 302 to Section 304 Part I and was awarded rigorous imprisonment of ten years along with a fine of Rs 10,000/-

Types of Culpable Homicide under Section 304 of IPC

To determine the level of punishment, in accordance with the gravity of the crime committed, the IPC divides three degrees of culpable homicide respectively. The first degree comes under Section 300 and Section 302 while the rest two degrees of culpable homicide falls under Section 304 (Part I) & (Part II) of IPC respectively : 

  1. The gravest and most serious form of culpable homicide has been defined in Section 300 as ‘murder’. This is also termed as the ‘culpable homicide of the first degree’. 
  2. The second is termed as ‘culpable homicide of the second degree’. This is the culpable homicide which amounts to murder. This is less grave compared to the first degree. It is punishable under Part I of Section 304. 
  3. The ‘culpable homicide of the third degree’ is the least graver type of culpable homicide. This is the culpable homicide which does not amount to murder. The punishment awarded here is the lowest among the three degrees. It is punishable under Section 304 (Part II) of IPC.

Reg. v. Govinda ( 1876)

This is one of the early cases which precisely defined the difference between murder and culpable homicide amounting to murder.

Facts

In this case the accused, an 18-year-old man, had kicked his 15-year-old wife, kept a knee on her chest and struck her several times with a fist on her face. This act produced ‘extraversion of blood’ on her brain and the wife died. 

The Session Judge found the accused guilty of murder and sentenced him to death.

Issue

The issue before the Bombay High Court was to decide whether the accused was guilty of murder or of culpable homicide.

Observations of the Court

Justice Melvill was of the opinion that the offence amounts to culpable homicide, and not murder since there was an intention to cause death and the bodily injury was not sufficient to cause death ordinarily. 

Hence, it was held that the bodily injury was not sufficient to cause death and further the act was not committed with the intention to cause death. Hence, the accused was liable to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Judgement

The accused was ordered to be convicted under culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and was sentenced to transportation (relocation to a secluded place as punishment during British Rule) for seven years.

Punishments according to Section 304 of IPC

According to the IPC, Section 304, as mentioned beforehand, explains punishments for ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’. 

Section 304 of IPC can be separated into two parts: Section 304 (Part I) and Section 304 (Part II). The level of punishment is different and is given accordingly considering the gravity of the crimes committed.

Section 304 (Part I) IPC

A person who has committed a crime falling under the category of ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ is to be awarded a punishment of life imprisonment or imprisonment of a term extending up to ten years and a fine. The act of crime has to be committed with both intentions along with knowledge.

Section 304 (Part II) IPC 

It lays down that an act which causes death is committed, or the act itself is committed with an intention to cause death or a bodily injury which ‘is likely to cause death’ is to be punished with imprisonment of the term extending up to ten years or fine or both imprisonment of ten years and fine altogether. Furthermore, it must be maintained that the act has been committed with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death but without any intention to cause death or any bodily injury resulting in causing death.

It can be specified that Section 304 of IPC stresses two factors namely knowledge and intention to determine the amount of punishment. If an act is committed with both the intention and knowledge, Section 304 (Part I) of IPC awards a punishment of imprisonment for life or imprisonment for ten years and a fine.  On the contrary, if it is committed with knowledge but without intention, under Section 304 (Part II) of IPC, a person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of ten years or a fine or with both ten years imprisonment and a fine.

Classification of Offences under Section 304 of IPC 

The classification of offences under both the Part I and Part II of Section 304 of IPC are: 

Cognizable 

Section 2(c) of CrPC lays down the definition of cognisable offences. A cognizable offence is such an offence where a police officer may arrest an individual without any arrest warrant or without the orders of the Magistrate. The arrest is to be made in accordance with the First Schedule of CrPC or any other relevant law in force.

A cognizable offence is serious in nature.

Non-bailable 

Non-bailable offences refer to those serious and grave offences where an accused person, arrested and taken into police custody cannot be released on bail by the police. The Investigating Officer should provide the accused to the Judicial Magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. The accused can file an application for bail and it can only be granted by the Court at its own discretion by the Judicial Magistrate with a bail bond, i.e. an amount of money against the freedom of the individual until the trial.

Some non-bailable offences include offenses such as Rape, Murder, Dowry Death, Attempt to murder, and Kidnapping.

Non-compoundable 

Section 320 of CrPC provides a detailed list of offences which have been termed as compoundable offences, meaning that a compromise can be sought between the complainant and the accused. Apart from these, the rest offences are termed as non-compoundable. Here, either the State or State elected officials such as police files complaints and it is not officially possible to enter into any compromise.

Triable by Court of Session 

The offences as mentioned in Section 304 of IPC can be tried by a competent Court of Sessions under Section 9 of CrPC.

insolvency

Relevant case laws relating to Section 304 of IPC

There exists a catena of judgments and orders relating to Section 304 of IPC. A few of the important cases are discussed below. However, the discussion cannot be made exhaustive considering the vastness of the number of cases.

Harendra Nath Mandal v. State of Bihar (1993)

Facts

This was an appeal, where the appellant was convicted under Section 304 (Part I) of IPC and the High Court sentenced him to two years of rigorous imprisonment for two years. The appellant along with two others, Sitaram Mandal and Tribhanga Mandal were charged under Section 307 read with Section 34. They had also been charged under Section 379 of IPC for theft of paddy.

The appellant along with two others was harvesting paddy. The Prosecution Witness 9 (PW 9) and his brother protested because, apparently, the appellants were harvesting paddies from their land. The appellant assaulted the PW 9’s brother with a tangi. The three persons were charged with murder and theft of paddy.

Harendra Nath Mandal and Sitaram Mandal were convicted by the Session’s Judge under Section 307 read with Section 34 of IPC and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for seven years and five years respectively. 

They appealed to the High Court where one of the accused died during the pendency. The appellant was convicted under section 304 Part I of IPC.

Issue

The issue before the Supreme Court was to decide whether the appellant can be tried under Section 304 of IPC.

Observations of the Court

The Court held that Section 304 Part I of the IPC, in which the accused was convicted, does not create or define any offence. Rather, Section 304 lays in detail the punishments to be awarded for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Further, Section 300 defines murder along with the exceptions.

Judgement

It was held that for holding an accused guilty and punishing under Part I & Part II of Section 304, a death must be caused under any of five exceptions mentioned in Section 300 of IPC.

Kedar Prasad v. State of Madhya Pradesh (1992) 

Facts

The accusations of this case were based on the dying declaration of the deceased.

The deceased, Altaf, was attracted to a commotion. When he reached the spot, he saw a woman was beaten and asked to stop. 

The three accused, Kedar Prasad, Ramlal and Rambali in turn, started giving blows to the deceased. Kedar Prasad, one of the accused, gave a fatal blow on the head of the deceased which resulted in his death. The other accused person injured the deceased with a spear on his knee and arm.

Kedar Prasad and Ramlal were convicted under Part I of Section 304 of IPC and sentenced with rigorous imprisonment of five years. The three also were convicted under Section 323 of IPC.

Issue

The issue before the Court was to decide whether the appellants can be convicted under Section 304 (Part I) of IPC.

Observations & Judgement

Based on the dying declaration, the Court decided that the fatal blow given in the head by Kedar Prasad was the sole reason behind the death. Hence the court confirmed his conviction and sentence. 

However, the conviction of Ramlal was altered under Section 324, IPC.

Mirza Ghani Baig v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1996) 

Facts

In this case, according to the dying declaration of the deceased, the husband came home in a drunken state and the wife offered him food. After having food, the husband set the deceased wife ablaze by pouring kerosene.

The brother-in-law and sister, after hearing cries, saved the accused and took her to the hospital where she died.

The lower court convicted him and awarded punishment under section 302 of IPC.

Issue

The issue before the Court was to decide whether the accused should be convicted under Section 302 of IPC.

Observation

It was observed that there was no evidence that the accused was harassing his wife for dowry or having an unhappy married life. It was further held that even though the accused was in a drunken state, and he had the knowledge that his act would be dangerous to the life of the deceased, he had no intention. Though he was responsible for the death of the deceased, he is guilty under Section 304 Part II of IPC and not under Section 302.

Judgement

The accused was convicted under Section 304 Part II of IPC and was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of five years.

S.D. Soni v. State Of Gujarat (1990)

Facts

Here, the deceased wife informed her parents that she was not happy in her marital life and wrote a letter informing her parents that she was being ill-treated by her husband, inlaws and other relatives. In the meantime, the wife was found dead in her matrimonial house.

It was informed to the Court that there was a suicide note found under the pillow of the wife and the medical officer also concluded it to be a suicidal death.

The accused was convicted under Section 302 of IPC by the Trial Court and was sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, the High Court found him punishable under Section 304 Part II of IPC and punished him with rigorous imprisonment.

Issue

Both the appellant and the State of Gujarat appealed challenging his conviction and to convict him under Section 302 of IPC. It was to be decided by the Apex Court the section under which he is to be convicted.

Observation

The Supreme Court held that the suicide theory was invented as a defence and also to mislead the Court. It was further held that the deceased did not die by taking any substances which may cause her death.

The guilt of his husband was inferred based on ‘circumstantial evidence’ since no direct evidence was found to establish whether it was suicide or murder. Since he was aware of the situation of his wife and had knowledge, he was held guilty under Section 304 (Part II).

Judgement

The Apex Court upheld the decision of the High Court and convicted him under Section 304 Part II of IPC and awarded him rigorous imprisonment of five years

Randhir Singh Alias Dhire v. State Of Punjab (1981)

Facts

In this case, the accused Randhir Singh hit the deceased Mohan Singh with a blow of kassi. The deceased immediately fell on the ground. He died while being rushed to the hospital. The accused was convicted under Section 302. According to the autopsy report, one of the injuries caused to the deceased was sufficient to cause him death. 

The appellant was convicted under Section 302, and Section 302 read with Section 34, IPC. respectively by the Sessions Judge and sentenced with life imprisonment. 

In an appeal, the Division Bench of the High Court of Punjab & Haryana confirmed the conviction and the sentence.

Issue

The issue was to decide whether the offence falls under the ambit of murder since there was no premeditation.

Observation

The Supreme Court held that the appellant was a college student and there was no premeditation. It was further held that the appellant must have the knowledge that his injury is likely to cause death. Hence his offence falls under the category of Section 304 Part II of IPC.

Judgement

The conviction of the appellant was altered from Section 302 to Section 304, Part II, IPC. The appellant was given five years of rigorous imprisonment instead of life imprisonment.

The distinction between Section 304 (Part I) and (Part II) of IPC 

An elaborate explanation of Sec 304 of IPC has been precisely provided by the High Court of Gujarat in the case of Rameshkumar Shankarlal Shah v. State Of Gujarat in 2016.

Rameshkumar Shankarlal Shah v. State Of Gujarat (2016) 

The facts, issues, observations and the order of the case are as follows:

Brief facts of the case 

A writ application under Article 226 of the Constitution of India was filed to quash an FIR under Sections 304, 120B read with 114 of the IPC.

The petitioner along with two co-accused purchased land on 13th May, 2014. Thereafter, the accused no 1 applied for an electric connection to Central Gujarat Electricity Company to shift High Tension Electric Line over the property and made the required payment.

On 19th July, 2014, due to some excavation work, the excavated soil was dumped in a part of the land. The dumped soil formed a big heap.  Another person was passing through the land with his cattle. When he climbed the heap of soil, he came into contact with the High Tension Electric Line and was electrocuted.

An FIR was registered for the offence punishable under Sections 304, 120B read with 114 of the Indian Penal Code and the applicant was sought to be prosecuted based on such accusation, for the offence of  ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ which is punishable under Section 304 of the IPC. 

Issue of the Case 

The issue before the Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat was to be decided whether the offence amounts to ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ and whether the accused can be tried under Section 304 of the IPC.

Observations of the Court 

Justice J.B.Pardiwala of the Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat provided a concise explanation of Section 304 through the order. He held that: “A plain reading of the above Section makes it clear that it is in two parts. The first part of the Section is generally referred to as “Section 304   Part ­I”, whereas the second part as “Section 304, Part­ II”.”

It was also mentioned that if a bodily injury likely to cause death is done intentionally and the victim dies, it would fall under  Part I. Subsequently if such an injury is caused with the knowledge that it may result in death but without the intention of causing death. “A person who intentionally causes bodily injury with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause death must   necessarily be a person who does an act with the intent to cause bodily   injury likely to result in death.” 

Order 

It was held that the accused persons cannot be tried under Sec 304 and the application to quash the FIR was allowed.

Detailed discussions of elements of Section 304 of IPC with some relevant case laws 

Section 304 of IPC have also been applied in the following circumstances. They are discussed below with relevant case laws:

Spur of the moment  

It literally means an impulsive act which is done without any premeditation or without any further planning done earlier.

Manjeet Singh v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2014) 

In the case of Manjeet Singh v. State Of H.P, Jai Pal, a person involved in the taxi business, went to hotel Apsara to inquire from the manager Budhi Singh regarding the booking of his taxi by some passenger. He found the accused Manjeet Singh drinking liquor. On asking him about the whereabouts of the manager, the accused started verbal abuse followed by physical assault. Jai Pal’s companions, whom he met on the road, came to inquire about him.

The accused, on being instigated by his friends, shot Carbine which left one of Jai Pal’s companions dead while being rushed to the hospital.

The accused was not held guilty under Section 302 but under Section 304 (Part II) of IPC and sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,500/-. The Court also affirmed conviction and sentences for the offence under Section 324, IPC and Section 27 of the Arms Act passed by the Trial Court.

  • Alteration of charges from Section 302 to Section 304 (II): 

Considering the gravity of the situation and the nature of offence, sometimes the charges are altered at the discretion of the Court after considering necessary facts and circumstances.

 Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan (1999)

In the case of Kalu Ram v. State of Rajasthan, the convictions of the accused were altered by the Supreme Court of India after careful examination of facts.

The accused, Kalu Ram, kept two wives in two different places. It was costly for him and he burnt one of his wives, Vimla to death.

It was admitted that he approached his wife in a drunken state and asked for her ornaments. When she refused, he poured kerosene and lit a matchstick but later frantically poured water to save her.

Hence, it was held that he was probably not aware of such grave situations. The offence from first-degree murder was altered to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Thus, the convictions were altered from Section 302 to Section 304 (Part II).

  • Exceeded right of private defence under Section 304 (Part I):  

The IPC guarantees the right of private defence from Section 96 to Section 106. However, if an act exceeds the right of private defence, it will attract convictions under Section 304 (Part I) of IPC.

Furthermore, the right to self-defence cannot be used as a defence in the Court of Law if it exceeds certain quanta.

Suresh Singh v. State of Haryana (1999)

In the case, Suresh Singh v. State of Haryana, the appellants Suresh Singh and Mohinder Singh were convicted under Section 302 while another accused Chander Pal was convicted under Section 304 (Part I).

The appellants killed Mahipal by giving blows to different body parts. The accused were also injured but to a minimum extent compared to the deceased.

Hence it was held that the accused persons had exceeded the right of private defence. Charges of all the accused were altered to Section 304 (Part I).

Self-defence must arise 

If the accused sustains nominal injuries while the deceased receive grievous injuries, it is held that the accused was the aggressor under Section 304 (Part I).

Murali v. State of TamilNadu (2000)

In the case of Murali v. State of TamilNadu, the deceased was stabbed in the stomach by the accused. The deceased had bought 2/3rd share in the well and the pump set belonging to the accused. He further dragged the deceased to the house and assaulted him to death. After some time he opened the door with a bloodstained knife and escaped.

The Supreme Court held that he was guilty under Section 304 (Part I) and stated, Right of private defence undoubtedly, a defence available to an accused but the Court while dealing with the defence, ought to act with proper circumspection and caution….”

Sudden scuffle during the course of altercation – Alteration of Section 304 (I) to Section 300 (II) 

If an individual creates a sudden sight in a small scuffle and it subsequently results in death or any bodily injury causing death, it should fall under Section 300 (II) and not Section 304(Part I)

Sukhdev Singh v. Delhi State (Govt. Of Nct Of Delhi) (2003)

In the case of Sukhdev Singh v. Delhi State (Govt. Of Nct Of Delhi), an altercation regarding the parking of a scooter followed by scuffle took place between the accused and Devender Singh, the deceased. The accused fired a pistol and shot him dead, leaving one injured.

The Supreme Court of India concluded that no reasonable person would be so provocative to lose self-control and fire a pistol. Hence the conviction should be altered to Section 300 (Part II) instead of Section 304 (Part II). 

Rash and negligent act with knowledge and likelihood of its dangerous consequences 

If a person commits a ‘despicable aggravated offence’, he is liable to punishment under Section 304 (Part II) instead of  Section 304A of IPC dealing with death caused by negligence.

Alister Anthony Pareira v. State of Maharashtra (2012)

In Alister Anthony Pareira v. State of Maharashtra, a car ran into a pavement killing seven persons and causing injury to another eight persons near Bandra, Mumbai. The appellant, Alister Anthony was driving the car. He was convicted under Section 304 (Part II) along with Section 338 and Section 337 of IPC. He was found to be under the influence of liquor. 

The Apex court concluded that the High Court was quite considerate for convicting under Section 304 (Part II) where seven persons were killed helplessly.

Death in custody

If a police officer assaults or tortures a prisoner in police custody and as a result of the prisoner succumbs to death, the conviction should be held accordingly to Section 304 (Part II) of IPC.

Along with framing a list of guidelines to be maintained for an individual in police custody, the Court also held the same in the landmark case of Shri DK Basu v. State of West Bengal (1997).

A comparative analysis between Section 304 and Section 304A of IPC

While Section 304 of IPC deals with the punishments to be awarded for the offences of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Section 304A deals with the deaths caused by negligence. Several judgments by many of the High Courts and that of the  Hon’ble Supreme Court have reinstated the transparent distinction between Section 304 and Section 304A of IPC. 

A noteworthy case, in this regard, is the case of Mahadev Prasad Kaushik v. State of U.P. & Anr (2008) where the Apex Court discussed the distinctions between Section 304 and Section 304A of IPC from paragraphs 26 to 29 of the Order:

  • Section 304A does not create a new offence. Rather, it deals with homicidal death by rash or negligent acts. It defines those offences which do not fall in the category of offences as specified in Sections 299 and 300 of IPC.
  • It was further held that unlike Section 304, where there is either ‘knowledge’ or both ‘knowledge’ and ‘intention’, there is no involvement of both ‘knowledge’ and ‘intention’ in the case of Section 304A.
  • Section 304A deals with those offences where the rash and negligent act has caused the death of another person.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled, “There is thus the distinction between Section 304 and Section 304A.”

Critical analysis 

The fine line of difference between murder and culpable homicide is often confusing while determining the quantum of punishment in case of an offence committed. To ensure fair trial and justice, the difference must be properly comprehended.

If the true scope, meaning and applicability cannot be comprehended by the Court minutely in case of an offence,  it may fail to ensure justice.

Concluding remarks

To determine an offence, it is of great importance to determine whether it falls under ‘murder’ or ‘culpable homicide’. If the offence is further determined to be under culpable homicide, there comes the responsibility to determine whether it amounts to murder or not and whether there was any presence of knowledge and intention or both. 

While theoretically, it is easy to distinguish, in real-life scenarios, it is not as easy to determine and distinguish them. To ensure justice, the keywords of the relevant sections should be focused on properly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Section 304 of IPC

Which offence is defined under Section 304 of IPC

Section 304 of IPC itself does not define any offence but details the punishment to be awarded for the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The offence of culpable homicide has been defined under Section 299 of IPC and murder in Section 300 of IPC.

What is the difference between culpable and non-culpable homicide

Culpable homicide is the unlawful killing of human beings either with both knowledge and intention or with knowledge but without intention. 

Non-culpable homicide is the killing done mostly in self-defense or consensual killing, i.e. killing an individual with his or her own consent, such as in cases of euthanasia, assisted suicide or mercy killing, though the legality of consensual killing is still widely debated in India.

When does culpable homicide amount to murder

In short, ‘First Degree Murder’ is the culpable homicide amounting to murder. First-degree murder is the offence committed with the sole intention of causing death to an individual. The gravest form has been defined under Section 300 of IPC and its punishments under Section 302 of IPC.

Does mercy killing or euthanasia in India come under the ambit of culpable homicide

The legal position of mercy killing is still vague in India. The Supreme Court for the very first time in the case of Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union Of India & Ors (2011) legalised passive euthanasia and held the right to die as important as the right to life provided under Section 21 and it does not amount to culpable homicide.

What are the essential ingredients of Section 304 of IPC

The essential ingredients of Section 304 of IPC are:

  • There must be a death caused to an individual in question.
  • The death caused either should be with both intention and knowledge or with knowledge but without intention.
  • The punishment of the offence is decided accordingly.

Is it possible to get bail under Section 304 of IPC

Section 304 of IPC is non-bailable. However, an individual may approach the Court and it can only be granted by the Court at its own discretion by the Judicial Magistrate with a bail bond.

What are the punishments awarded in Section 304 of IPC

Depending on the severity of the offences, the punishments awarded under Section 304 of IPC are life imprisonment, life imprisonment up to ten years and a fine or both life imprisonment up to ten years and a fine. However, Section 304 of IPC does not award the death penalty.

Which Court is competent to try offences under Section 304 of IPC

The offences under Section 304 of the IPC is triable in the Court of Sessions.

References


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