This article is written by Sujitha S, from the School of Excellence in law, Chennai. This article focuses on Sections 299 and 300 of the Indian Penal Code with relevant illustrations and judgments. It also discusses the difference between culpable homicide and murder.
This article has been published by Shoronya Banerjee.
“All murders are culpable homicide, but all culpable homicides are not murder.”
Is the above statement confusing? You won’t be at the end of the article. To start with, Sections 299 and 300 of the Indian Penal Code (1860) deals with culpable homicide and murder, respectively. Generally, the thin line of distinction between them is the reason why many find it interesting. Even it poses difficulty for advocates and legal practitioners who are unsure where to lay the case. Murder and culpable homicide appear to be more similar than they are, but they are not interchangeable terms. Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code defines culpable homicide, whereas Section 300 deals with the concept of murder. The person who begins to learn these notions is always snarled up by these phrases. The term ‘homicide’ refers to the killing of a human being, the term ‘culpable homicide’ refers to the unlawful killing of a person and the term ‘murder’ also refers to the killing of a person. So what are the slight points to be pondered to arrive at a conclusion? This article deals with every such aspect of the topic.
Homicide is derived from the Latin phrases homi (man) and cido (cut). Homicide literally means “the killing of a human being by another human being.” The term ‘homicide’ refers to the act of causing or hastening the death of a human being by another human being. However, not all homicides are illegal or criminal. The death of an assailant caused by an innocent agent, such as a child under the age of discretion (doli incapax) or a person of unsound mind, or the death of the assailant caused in the exercise of the right of private defence, is not illegal. In the first, the perpetrator is ‘excused,’ but in the second, the defendant’s actions are ‘justified.’
Types of homicides
As a result, there are two sorts of homicides: (1) lawful homicides and (2) unlawful homicides. Lawful homicides are ones that fall under the IPC’s Chapter on General Exceptions and are hence not penalised. The homicides that are penalised under the Code clearly fall within the category of unlawful homicides.
Lawful homicides can be divided into two categories based on the nature of the ‘general exceptions’ that surround the homicide: excusable homicides, and justifiable homicides. As a result, the IPC recognises three types of homicide. There are three types of murders:
- Justifiable, and
- Unlawful or criminal (i.e. killings that are neither excused nor justified).
The ‘Offenses Affecting Life’ under Chapter XVI of the IPC deals with homicide offences. It is made up of four homicide offenses, namely:
- Culpable homicide that does not amount to murder,
- Culpable homicide that does amount to murder,
- Death by a rash or negligent act, and
- Dowry death.
According to Section 299 of IPC, a person who commits culpable homicide does an act with the intent of causing death, or with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause death.
A is aware that Z is hiding behind a bush. B is completely unaware of this. A causes B to shoot at the bush with the intent of causing, or knowing that it is likely to cause, Z’s death. Z is killed by B’s bullets. B may be innocent in this case, but A has committed the crime of culpable homicide.
Culpable homicide is defined under Section 299 of the Criminal Code. Section 300 defines murder as a culpable homicide with certain distinguishing features, which are listed in clauses 1-4 of Section 300, subject to the exclusions set out in Section 300. Any culpable homicide that occurs within one of the four clauses in Section 300 is considered murder. All other cases of culpable homicide, including those that may fall under the exceptions to Section 300, shall be considered culpable homicide rather than murder. While Section 299 defines ‘culpable homicide,’ it is not exhaustive.
Essential ingredients of culpable homicide
The following are the essential elements of culpable homicide:
- a person must be dead;
- the death must have been caused by the act of another person; and
- the act causing death must have been done with:
(a) the intention of causing death; or
(b) the intention of causing bodily injury likely to cause death; or
(c) with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause death.
Explanations for Section 299 IPC
The definition itself specifies three scenarios in which the presence or absence of particular criteria in the cause of death is recognised as culpable homicide. Explanations 1-3 deal with these scenarios.
It describes a circumstance in which the injured individual has a disorder, sickness, or bodily infirmity that has hastened his death. The fact that his death was expedited or hastened by the sickness or disease he was already suffering from does not relieve the person who caused the damage of guilt. In other words, the person who inflicted the harm cannot avoid criminal liability for culpable homicide by claiming that the person wounded would not have died if he had not suffered from the condition or ailment.
For instance, A is suffering from diabetes. B with the intention of hastening the death of A gave him a lot of sweets. The intended victim ate the sweets, as a result of which, his blood sugar level went high and eventually resulted in his death. Thus, B is criminally liable.
It describes a circumstance in which an injured person may have recovered and avoided death if he had received early and appropriated medical treatment. In such cases, the fact that the wounded person died as a result of his inability to obtain adequate medical care cannot be used to absolve the person who caused the harm in the first place of liability.
For instance, A is suffering from diabetes. B with the intention of hastening the death of A gave him a lot of sweets. The intended victim ate the sweets, as a result of which, his blood sugar level went high and eventually resulted in his death owing to the lack of immediate medical care. Here, the fact of the lack of immediate medical care cannot be considered to acquit B from liability.
It refers to a somewhat different circumstance. It takes into account a child’s death while still in the mother’s womb. It is not culpable homicide if the child dies while still in the mother’s womb, according to the law. However, if any part of the child emerges from the mother’s womb, even if it is not completely developed, and the kid dies, it is considered a culpable homicide.
For instance, A is a pregnant woman who’s yet to deliver a baby in the hospital. Now, the head of baby B comes out of the womb. If the baby dies, it amounts to culpable homicide.
In Jabbar And Ors. v. State (1965), Sarju, Jamna’s brother, was said to have been hired as a labourer by Ishaq, the appellant, to transport limestone from Saraiya hill. Ishaq was said to have slapped Sarju twice when he stated his willingness to carry just five ‘dharas’ (seers) of lime instead of the seven that Ishaq demanded. The three brothers, Jabbar, Ishaq, and Habib are said to have gone to their residence after that and saw Sarju seated there while Smt. Pangoli was applying turmeric to the back of his neck. Ishaq appellant is accused of striking two lathi strikes at Sarju as soon as the appellants arrived on the scene, causing him to flee to his own nearby Kotha. After that, it is reported that Jabbar appellant inquired about Jamna. As Smt. Pangoli was unable to inform him, the appellant Jabbar is accused of pushing her, causing her to fall on her stomach, and then kicking her on the side of her stomach. Smt. Pangoli, who was pregnant at the time, became unwell as a result and gave birth prematurely to a seven-month-old baby who died. The child’s hands, feet, and other body parts had developed, according to the post mortem report. In other words, the baby had developed sufficiently to be deemed an independent entity from the mother in the eyes of the law. The court found Jabbar guilty of an offence under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced him to one year of rigorous imprisonment, a fine of Rs. 500, and three months of further rigorous imprisonment if he did not pay the fee.
Section 301 IPC : culpable homicide by causing the death of a person other than the person whose death was intended
By Section 301, if a person commits culpable homicide by causing the death of someone whose death he neither intends nor knows to be likely to cause, the culpable homicide committed by the offender is of the same description as if he had caused the death of the person whose death he intended or knew to be likely to cause.
In Rajbir Singh v. State Of U.P (2006), the appellant alleged that his brother’s home was attacked with bricks by a neighbour. As a result of this, his father and the accused had a verbal spat, but the problem was eventually resolved by the locals. The next day, the accused and two relatives arrived with firearms. They approached the complainant’s business, where his father was standing. The accused allegedly persuaded or urged his relatives to murder him there. The accused began firing at the complainant’s father, who was injured and fell to the ground. A girl went to that shop to buy some items and was injured and fell down. On their route to the hospital, both of the injured people died. In his defence, the accused claimed that the girl died by mistake and that they had no intention of killing her. She was going through that area when she was injured and died as a result. The Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s decision and found the defendants guilty. He was accused under Section 301 of the IPC.
By Section 300, unless otherwise specified, culpable homicide is murder:
- If the act that causes the death is done with the intent of causing death, or—
A fires a shot at Z, intending to kill him. As a result, Z dies. A commits murder.
- If the act is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows is likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused, or—
Knowing that B is suffering from an illness that makes a blow likely to kill him, A hits him with the intention of injuring him. As a result of the strike, B dies. Although the strike may not have been sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause the death of a person in good health, A is guilty of murder. However, if A, unaware that B is suffering from a disease, strikes him with a blow that would not, in the ordinary course of nature, kill a person in good health, A is not guilty of murder if he did not intend to cause death or bodily injury that would, in the ordinary course of nature, kill a person in good health.
- If it is done with the aim of inflicting physical damage on another person, and the bodily injury inflicted is sufficient to cause death in the regular course of nature, or—
In the regular course of nature, A purposefully causes Z a sword-cut or club-wound sufficient to kill a man. As a result, Z dies. A is guilty of murder in this case, despite the fact that he may not have planned to kill Z.
- If the person conducting the act is aware that it is so risky that it must, in all likelihood, result in death or physical harm that is likely to result in death and conducts the act without any justification for risking death or injury as stated.
Without justification, A shoots a loaded cannon into a gathering of people, killing one of them. A is guilty of murder, even though he did not have a planned plan to kill somebody in particular.
Exception I : grave and sudden provocation
Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender causes the death of the person who delivered the provocation or any other person by mistake or accident while being deprived of the ability of self-control by grave and immediate provocation.
Under the impact of emotions aroused by Z’s provocation, A murders Y, Z’s child, on purpose. In as much as the provocation was not offered by the child, and the child’s death was not caused by accident or misfortune while doing an act prompted by the provocation, this is murder.
The exception is subject to three exceptions of its own:
- The provocation should not have been sought voluntarily by the culprit as a justification for killing or harming anybody.
- The provocation should not be caused by an act carried out in accordance with the law or by a public official in the lawful exercise of his powers.
- The provocation is unrelated to any actions taken in the exercise of one’s right to self-defence.
KM Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra
The defendant in KM Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra (1961), was a naval officer. He had three children and was married. His wife admitted to him one day that she had an affair with Prem Ahuja, the deceased. Enraged, the accused returned to his ship, got a semi-automatic pistol and six rounds from the ship’s shop, proceeded to the deceased’s flat, entered his bedroom, and shot him to death. Following that, the accused turned himself in to the police. The Supreme Court had to decide whether the accused’s actions were covered by Exception 1 of Section 300. The following postulates pertaining to the grave and abrupt provocation were established by the Supreme Court:
- The test of ‘grave and sudden’ provocation is whether a reasonable man from the same social group as the accused would be so outraged as to lose his self-control in the position in which the accused was put.
- In India, words and gestures may give grave and sudden provocation to an accused, so bringing his act within the first exception to Section 300 of the IPC.
- In determining whether the succeeding action produced significant and immediate provocation for committing the crime, the mental context formed by the victim’s earlier act may be taken into account.
- The fatal strike should be definitely connected to the effect of passion emanating from that provocation, not after the passion had cooled down due to the passage of time or otherwise allowing for premeditation and calculation.
The accused may have temporarily lost control after his wife admitted to her illegitimate relationship with the deceased, according to the Supreme Court. After dropping his wife and children off at a movie theatre, he proceeded to the ship, grabbed the handgun, conducted some official business, and then drove his car to the deceased’s workplace and afterwards to his home. By that time, three hours had passed, and he had had ample opportunity to restore his temper. As a result, the Court decided that the requirements of Exception 1 to Section 300 were not applicable. The defendant was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
This was the last case decided by jury trial. This case was debated hugely among the public. There was a major criticism about the case. Nanavati had previously served as V. K. Krishna Menon’s Defence Associate while the latter was High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and had gotten close to the Nehrus during that period. Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister of India at the time of Nanavati’s trial and punishment, and his sister, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, was Governor of Bombay State. All of these benefits might not have helped Nanavati under other circumstances, because a pardon could have been perceived by the press and public at other times as a flagrant abuse of authority to aid a crony of a powerful political family. Public opinion in the generally conservative country, on the other hand, was overwhelmingly in favour of Nanavati, who was viewed as an upright navy commander with middle-class ideals and a strong sense of honour. Nanavati had served three years in prison, and it was thought that granting him clemency would enrage the Sindhi community, to whom the Ahuja family belonged. Around this time, the government received a pardon plea from Bhai Pratap, a Sindhi businessman who had been convicted of abusing an import licence and had been a participant in the Indian independence struggle. The government was inclined to pardon Bhai Pratap because of his history as a freedom warrior and the minor nature of his transgression. Finally, even Mamie Ahuja, the deceased’s sister, signed an application for Nanavati’s pardon. In writing, she consented to his pardon. Bhai Pratap and Nanavati were finally pardoned by Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the Governor of Maharashtra at the time. This case is also an epitome of the influence of media trials.
In Shankar Diwal Wadu. v. State Of Maharastra (2008), according to the prosecution, the accused Shankar Wadu is the brother of Mahu Wadu, who was assaulted by him and died as a result of the assault. The event occurred on October 22, 1996, in Kaimad Wadu Pada, Laluka Wada, Thane, where both the accused and the victim, as well as other close relatives, lived. The accused sought to maintain Kamlibai, the widow of his brother Vasant, as his mistress, according to the prosecution evidence, but she refused. The appellant was violently dragging Kamlibai to his residence on the day of the occurrence. His brother Mahu (the deceased) told him at the time that he couldn’t force and pull Kamlibai to his residence. The accused became outraged by such unsolicited advice and lifted a wooden plank (Pat) and whacked Mahur on the head with it, as well as kicking and punching him. Mahu died instantly. Yeshubai, a close relative of both the offender and the victim, filed a complaint alleging his attack. The investigation was launched after receiving this complaint, and the accused was detained. The prosecution called up to eight witnesses to establish its accusation of murder against the accused, and the learned trial judge, after weighing the evidence, found the accused guilty and sentenced him to life in prison under section 302 / 506 of the Indian Penal Code, as well as a fine of Rs.50,000.
Exception II : right of private defence
Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, in the exercise in good faith of the right of private defence of person or property, exceeds the power given to him by law and causes the death of the person against whom he is exercising such right of defence without premeditation, and without any intention of doing more harm than is necessary for the purpose of such defence.
Z tries to horsewhip A, but not in a way that causes him serious injury. A pulls a handgun from his pocket. The attack against Z continues. A, believing in good faith that there is no other way to avoid being horsewhipped, shoots Z to death. A has merely committed culpable homicide, not murder.
Under some circumstances, the right of private defence even extends to the infliction of death. This Section applies when a person’s right to private defence has been violated. It should be noted that the fact that a person has exercised his right to private defence beyond its limits does not completely exonerate him or her under this exemption. It is only used as a mitigating element to lessen the crime from murder to culpable homicide that does not constitute murder. Of course, before this exception may be invoked, it must be established that the accused has the right to a private defence under Sections 96-106 of the IPC. The question of whether the accused has exceeded his right to private defence will arise only once the existence of the right has been proved. If it seems that the accused does not have the right to a private defence in the first instance, then this provision will not apply.
Nathan v. State of Madras
The accused and his wife were in possession of some land that they had been farming for some years in Nathan v. State of Madras (1972). They had fallen behind on their lease payments to the landlady. The accused was forcibly evicted, and the landlord attempted to harvest the crop. As a result, the accused killed the dead in the exercise of his right to private property defence. The Supreme Court agreed with the claim that the incident occurred when the accused was exercising his legal right to private defence against the property. The right to private property defence was restricted to the degree of causing any harm other than death under Section 104, IPC because the deceased person was not armed with any lethal weapons and there could not have been any fear of death or severe harm on the part of the accused and his party. As a result, the accused’s right to private defence was violated, and the case was classified as culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Exception 2 to Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code because the act was done in good faith and without the intent to cause death. The accused’s death sentence was commuted to a term of life in prison.
Exception III : lawful act of a public servant
Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, while acting as a public servant or assisting a public servant acting for the benefit of public justice, exceeds the powers granted to him by law and causes death by doing an act that he, in good faith, believes to be lawful and necessary for the proper discharge of his duty as such public servant and without malice toward the person who is killed.
The following are the essential elements of this exception:
- The offence must have been committed by a public servant or a person assisting a public servant;
- The alleged act must have been committed by the public servant in the discharge of his official duties;
- He must have exceeded the powers granted to him by law;
- The act must have been done in good faith; and
- The public servant should have thought that his actions were legal and required for the proper fulfilment of his duties, and
- He should not have harboured any hatred toward the individual who died as a result of his actions.
In Dakhi Singh v. State (1955), a suspected thief was apprehended by a police officer and was being transported to a railway station. The robber was able to flee the speeding train. He was chased by the constable. He fired at him because he was unable to arrest him. However, he hit the fireman and killed him in the process. The case was found to be covered by this exception.
Exception IV : sudden conflict
Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed in the heat of emotion during a sudden conflict and without the offenders taking undue advantage or acting in a cruel or unusual manner.
The only requirements for this exception are that:
- the murder be committed without premeditation;
- it is committed in a sudden fight;
- it is committed in the heat of passion;
- it is committed upon a sudden quarrel; and
- It is committed without the offender taking undue advantage or acting in a cruel or unusual manner.
In Manke Ram v. State of Haryana (2003), the Supreme Court granted the benefit of exception 4 to a police inspector who killed his subordinate in a bizarre combination of circumstances. In his chamber, he asked the deceased to drink. While they were drinking, the deceased’s nephew entered the room and summoned him for supper. As the deceased rose to leave the room, the appellant became enraged and began insulting him in obscene terms, which the deceased objected to. This enraged the appellant even more. Between the two of them, a brawl erupted. The appellant took out his service handgun and fired two bullets at the deceased, who was standing close. These shots were lethal. The Supreme Court overturned the Punjab High Court’s conviction under Section 302 of the Code, finding that the incident occurred in the heat of passion and granting the petitioner the benefit of exception 4. It was decided that, given the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case, the appellant did not take unfair advantage of the fight or conduct in an unusual or harsh manner.
Exception V : death with consent
Culpable homicide is not murdered if the dead individual is beyond the age of eighteen years and suffers or risks death with his consent.
A intentionally causes Z, a minor under the age of eighteen, to commit suicide by instigation. Because Z’s young, he was unable to consent to his own death; as a result, A had aided and abetted murder.
The following things must be proven:
- The death was induced with the deceased’s permission;
- The deceased was over the age of 18 at the time; and
- The consent provided was free and voluntary, and not based on fear or a misunderstanding of facts.
In the case of Narendra v. State of Rajasthan (2014), the deceased was a married woman named Nathi who had left her house and was living with her parents. There, she became close to the accused Narendra, and the two expressed their desire to marry. Because they belonged to the same gotra, the villagers were opposed to their desire to marry. Due to their dissatisfaction with the villagers’ rejection of their love, both of them agreed to commit suicide. Other villagers saw the accused inflicting harm on the corpse one day, but the victim had already died before they could save her. Although the accused had stab wounds in his abdomen, he was prevented from killing himself. The High Court found no evidence on the record that the deceased gave his free and voluntary consent. Later, the case reached the Supreme Court, where justices emphasised facts such as the fact that the deceased did not raise an alarm, that the accused was injured, and that he did not have a weapon when he entered the residence. Taking into account these facts, the Court found in favour of the deceased, awarding him benefits under Exception 5.
Difference between culpable homicide and murder
The genus is culpable homicide, and the species is murder. All culpable homicides are murders, but not all culpable homicides are murders. So the distinction is between culpable homicide that amounts to murder and culpable homicide that does not amount to murder. The sole distinction between culpable homicide and murder is the degree of purpose and knowledge involved. The case would be classified as murder if there was a high level of purpose and knowledge. The case would be classified as responsible homicide if there was a lesser degree of purpose or knowledge. As a result, establishing categorical demarcations between culpable homicide and murder is challenging.
Clause (a) of Section 299 and clause (1) of Section 300 are the same. It is culpable homicide under Section 299 if death is caused by an act done with the goal of causing death (a). Unless one of the exceptions applies, it also amounts to murder under cl (1) of Section 300.
Intention to cause bodily injury likely to cause death
Both Section 299 clause (b) and Section 300 clauses 2 and 3 deal with the purpose to inflict physical damage that is likely to result in death. In terms of Section 299(b), it simply states that if death is caused by an act committed with the goal of causing physical damage likely to cause death, it is considered a culpable homicide. While clause (2) of Section 300 states that an act must be done with the goal of inflicting bodily damage that is likely to result in death, it also states that the deliberate causation of bodily injury must be accompanied by the knowledge that the bodily injury is likely to result in death.
The term ‘likely’ in Section 299(b) refers to a simple possibility or likelihood that the harm may result in death. However, the word ‘likely’ in clause (2) of Section 300 conveys, to some extent, death certainty. This is explained in illustration (b) to Section 300. It implies that the accused has some unique knowledge of the deceased’s state, such as any ailment he may be suffering from, and that this information adds certainty to the fact that the bodily damage would result in death. The sole difference between the meanings of the words ‘likely’ in Sections 299(b) and 300(2) is the degree of likelihood.
In the case of clause (3) of Section 300, the purpose to inflict bodily damage is accompanied by the certainty that such physical injury is sufficient to cause death in the regular course of nature. The word ‘sufficient’ in the regular course of nature to cause death, like the phrase ‘likely’ in Section 299, imputes the certainty of death to a higher extent (b). Thus, the essential difference between death under Sections 299(b) and 300(2) and (3) is that under Section 299(b), the bodily injury caused is less likely to result in death, whereas under Section 300(2) and (3), the bodily injury caused is more likely to result in death.
Sections 299(c) and 300(4) deal with situations in which the accused has information that the act is likely to result in death. The need for knowledge under Section 300(4) is a very high degree of risk of death, similar to the preceding Sections. This high probability of death is indicated in the clause’s final Section, which states that the act must be so immediately dangerous that it will almost certainly result in death or bodily injury that is likely to result in death, and that the act must be performed without any justification for taking the risk. Both clause (c) of Section 299 and clause (4) of 300 apply to circumstances in which the accused has no intention of causing death or bodily damage but is aware that the act is basically dangerous. The degree of risk to human life determines whether the conduct is murder or culpable homicide. It is culpable homicide if death is a potential outcome; it is murder if death is the most likely outcome.
State of A.P. v. R. Punnayya
In the landmark judgment of State of AP. v. Rayavarappu Punnaya (1977), the Apex Court created a comparison table to grasp the key differences between them.
|Section 299 IPC||Section 300 IPC|
|A person commits culpable homicide if the act by which the death is caused is done –||Subject to certain exceptions culpable homicide is murder if the act by which the death is caused is done –|
With the intent to cause death; or with the intention to cause physical damage that is likely to result in death; or
With the intention of causing death; or with the intention of inflicting physical injury that the offender knows will result in the death of the person to whom the harm is inflicted; or with the intention to inflict bodily damage on any person and the physical injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature, or
Knowing that the conduct is likely to result in death.
With the knowledge that the conduct is so immediately harmful that it must almost certainly result in death or bodily injury that is likely to result in death and without any justification or risk of causing death or injury as described above.
Case laws relevant to culpable homicide and murder
Vasanth v. State of Maharashtra
There existed prior animosity between the accused and the deceased in Vasanth v. State of Maharashtra (1983). The accused and the dead were observed fighting. The two were separated by a few people who were present. The accused then rushed to his vehicle, drove it on the wrong side of the road and straight into the deceased, knocking him down and driving over him, killing him. The route on which the accident occurred was broad and lonely. The accused had no cause or requirement to drive the jeep in the incorrect way. The Supreme Court ruled that the accused intentionally slammed his jeep into the deceased and ran him over with the purpose to kill him. It’s worth noting that the first clause of Section 300, ‘act done with the purpose to cause death,’ is the same as the first clause of Section 299, which is likewise ‘performing an act with the intent to cause death.’ As a result, an act that falls under clause (1) of Section 300 will also fall under Section 299, and it will constitute culpable homicide amounting to murder in both cases.
State of Rajasthan v. Dhool Singh
In the case of State of Rajasthan v. Dhool Singh (2003), the Supreme Court found the accused guilty of murder for inflicting an incised cut with a sword on the deceased’s neck, resulting in excessive bleeding and organ failure, on the grounds that he knew the bodily injury he caused would likely result in death.
Pulicherla Nagaraju v. State of Andhra Pradesh (2006)
In Pulicherla Nagaraju v. State of Andhra Pradesh (2006), the Court outlined the facets that courts should consider when deciding whether an act is punishable as murder, culpable homicide, or culpable homicide not amounting to murder, and stated that the Court should proceed with caution when deciding whether the case falls under Section 302 or 304 Part I or 304 Part II. As a result, it is the responsibility of the courts to ensure that instances of murder punished under Section 302 are not changed into offences punishable under Section 304 Part I/II, or that cases of culpable homicide that do not amount to murder are considered as murder punishable under Section 302. A combination of a few or many of the following, among other things, can be used to determine the intent to cause death:
- The weapon’s properties;
- Whether the accused carried the weapon or it was picked up on the spot;
- Whether the strike is directed at a critical bodily part;
- The amount of force used to injure someone;
- Whether the action occurred during a sudden dispute, a sudden fight, or a free-for-all brawl;
- If the incident happened by coincidence or was it planned in advance;
- Whether there had been any previous animosity or if the deceased was a stranger;
- Whether there was any grave and immediate provocation, and if so, what caused it;
- Whether it was committed in the heat of emotion;
- Whether the person who inflicted the harm acted in a cruel and unusual manner;
- Whether the accused gave a single blow or multiple strokes. Of course, the preceding list of conditions is not complete, and there may be other particular circumstances in individual situations that provide light on the question of purpose.
Punishments for culpable homicide and murder
Section 304 IPC : penalty for culpable homicide that does not amount to murder
If the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death or causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death; or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and also be liable to fine; or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and also be liable to fine; or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and also be liable to fine.
Though the Section itself does not split the Parts in this fashion, the sentence under this Section is separated into two parts, often referred to as Section 304, Pt I and Section 304, Pt II. If the conduct is done with the purpose to cause death or physical damage that is likely to cause death, Section 304, Pt I, specifies a penalty of life imprisonment or imprisonment of any kind for a term up to ten years and a fine. This sentence refers to Section 299, clauses (a) and (b).
Section 304, Pt II applies to crimes committed with the knowledge that they are likely to result in death, but not with the purpose to cause death or bodily damage that is likely to result in death. This phrase corresponds to Section 299, clause (c). However, if an offence is committed with the knowledge that it is so dangerous that it must almost certainly result in death or bodily injury that is likely to result in death, and the act is committed without justification, the offence is removed from the scope of Section 304, Pt II and brought under Section 302, as the offence would amount to murder under Section 300(4).
In the case of Vishwanath v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1959), the accused stabbed the dead with a knife that penetrated his heart as the deceased was attempting to carry away the accused’s wife and sister by force. The Supreme Court ruled that the suit fell under Section 304, paragraph II.
Section 302 : murder
Murder is punishable under Section 302. It specifies a penalty of death or life imprisonment, as well as a monetary fine. If a court finds an offender guilty of murder under Section 300, the court must sentence the criminal to death or life imprisonment. No other lesser punishment can be imposed by the court.
In 1973, the Code of Criminal Procedure was updated again, making life imprisonment the rule. The judge’s ability to impose a death sentence has been limited by Section 354(3) of the new Code, which requires the court to establish particular reasons for imposing a death sentence. When it comes to assigning a penalty for murder, it has now made life imprisonment the rule and death sentence the exception.
Reddy Sampath Kumar v. State
In Reddy Sampath Kumar v. State (2005), the Apex Court permitted the accused, a doctor, who was engaged in many murders of his in-laws, to be sentenced to life in jail. The court, however, barred him from collecting any remissions on auspicious occasions in order to serve as a deterrent. Similarly, in Lehna case (2002), the Supreme Court declared the death penalty imposed by the trial court and upheld by the high court on the accused of murdering his mother, brother, and sister-in-law to be unconstitutional and commuted it to life imprisonment, reasoning that the multiple murders, while brutal, were not the result of diabolic and sinister planning.
Though the categories of murder and culpable homicide appear to be similar in certain ways, they differ in terms of the degree of probability of death, or the gravity of the unlawful act. If the act committed by the offender is either a horrific crime or particularly hazardous conduct that results in the death of a person with no other consequences, it is more likely to be classified as murder than culpable homicide. If the offender’s conduct leaves the victim alive but in grave pain with a possibility of survival, it is referred to as culpable homicide, which is not the same as murder. Crimes such as rape and murder are becoming increasingly dangerous to women and children. According to recent estimates, these crime rates are rising every day. To address this, legislators may consider enacting legislation that includes deterrence theory and consequences. As a result, this idea may help to lower crime rates. There will be a decline in crime when punishments are strengthened.
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