This article is written by Janani Parvathy J. The aim of this article is to exhaustively analyse the landmark case of Om Prakash v. State of Punjab (1961). It provides an explanation of the facts, issues, and contentions raised by the parties, a discussion of the relevant laws and provisions and an in-depth analysis of the judgement.


Om Prakash v. State of Punjab (1961) is a landmark case in criminal law. This case explains and analyses several aspects of Section 307, Section 511, and Section 308 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter mentioned as “IPC”). It is one of the oldest cases, which properly specified the elements of the offence of attempt to murder as envisaged under Section 307 of IPC. It not only provides insights into criminal law provisions but also sheds light on the harsh reality of the practice of domestic cruelty. 

A well-settled principle dictates that Section 307, i.e., attempt to murder, requires both intention and an act to be performed. However, whether this act needs to be the last act performed before the offence, is the question this landmark judgement addresses. Generally, it is believed that the husbands must provide their wives with basic necessities like food, shelter, and clothing if they are dependent. The question of whether the husband must spoon-feed the wife was also addressed in this case. 

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Moreover, this case is relevant for its distinction between Section 511 and 307 IPC. Additionally, it historically established that the commencement of an offence, under Section 307 was punishable. Notwithstanding these, the Om Prakash case also received the societal spotlight because it involved a crime within the traditional family structure.

Details of Om Prakash v. State of Punjab (1961)

Case name 

Om Prakash v. The State of Punjab

Case No.

Criminal Appeal No. – 177 of 1959

Equivalent Citation

AIR 1961 SC 1782, (1961) 31 AWR 660, 1961 INSC 179, [1962] 2 SCR 254


Supreme Court of India

Parties to the case 


Om Prakash


State of Punjab

Judgement Date  

April 24, 1961

Facts of Om Prakash v. State of Punjab (1961) 

  • Bimla Devi, the victim, and Om Prakash, the appellant in the present case, got married in October 1951. In 1953, when relations between Mrs Devi and her husband became unpleasant, Bimla Devi left her matrimonial house to go and stay with her brother. She stayed in her brother’s house only for one year. After assurance from the appellant’s maternal uncle that she would not be ill-treated in the future, she returned back to her matrimonial home to stay with the appellant.
  • Unfortunately, though they had promised not to ill-treat her, they did not abide by the same. She was ill-treated and allegedly malnourished due to which her health deteriorated. In 1956, she was confined to the home and forcefully starved. There were days when she received only minimal sustenance. Many times, she was given only a morsel or two to eat akin to alms given to beggars. Additionally, she was deliberately denied food for many days altogether and provided gram husk with water every five to six days only. 
  • In April 1956, Bimla Devi tried to escape but was caught and brought back by Romesh Chander and Suresh Chander, the appellant’s brothers, and was later severely beaten by them. However, on June 5, 1956, when the room of the victim was accidentally opened and the husband and mother-in-law were away from the house, the victim escaped and reached the City Hospital, Ludhiana. At the city hospital, the victim met Doctor, Mrs. Kumar, to whom she explained all her sufferings. 
  • Subsequently, the appellant and his mother reached the hospital and tried to bring back the victim, but their efforts failed because the doctor was determined not to let her go. Additionally, several social workers became involved in this matter and informed the victim’s brother, Mr. Madan Mohan, about his sister’s condition.
  • Mr. Madan Mohan promptly arrived in Ludhiana, collected all necessary facts, and then wrote to the police station, asking to register a case and requesting for her statement to be recorded immediately. He wrote that his sister, Bimla Devi was starved, wrongfully confined and beaten for a long time by her husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and mother-in-law and that, at present, she was in a critical condition. 
  • On the same day, Dr. Dalbir Singh Dillon sent a letter to the police reiterating the critical condition of the victim. He emphasised that she was ill and could collapse at any moment. Magistrate Shri Sehgal took the statement of the victim and stated that, since the blood transfusion was happening on the right hand, the left thumb impression had to be taken as a signature.

Prior proceedings

Additional Sessions Judge

The additional sessions judge convicted the accused, the appellant in the present case, under Section 307 of the IPC and acquitted under Section 342 i.e., wrongful confinement, granting him the benefit of the doubt, despite concluding that Bimla Devi’s movements were restricted to a certain extent.

High Court of Punjab

  • Later, an appeal to the High Court of Punjab was filed, by Bimla Devi and her representatives. The High Court judge observed, from photos of Mrs. Bimla Devi that she was in a state of starvation. She was completely undernourished and with a skeletal appearance, hollow cheeks, and projecting bones with little flesh, as observed by the judge. The judge concluded that the veracity of the victim’s statements could not be doubted and that any omissions or exaggerations regarding the same did not matter.
  • The judge further noted that the contentions made by the counsel of the accused could not be proven and were untrue. The counsel for the accused contended that Mrs. Bimla Devi had tuberculosis, but the same was unknown to the accused until Dr. Gulati told him that the emaciation of the accused was due to the same.
  • The judge held that he found the story of how Bimla Devi was mistreated and starved to slowly kill her convincing despite the novelty of the method. The court also observed that the conduct of the mother-in-law and husband, insisting on taking the victim home while she was in such a condition, was significant. The court further observed that the real objective behind insisting on taking back the victim home could be nothing other than to slowly kill her. 
  • After considering all the evidence presented, the court concluded that the accused was guilty under Section 307, i.e., attempt to murder.

An issue raised in the case of Om Prakash v. State of Punjab (1961)

The question of whether an offence under Section 307 of the IPC could be proven in the present case is raised before the Supreme Court. To answer the same, the Court, after hearing the arguments from both sides of the parties, examined various intricacies of Section 307 and gave a clear understanding of the essential ingredients for the offence of attempt to murder.

Arguments of the parties

The following are the arguments raised by the appellant.

  • The appellant was represented by Mr. Jai Gopal Sethi. The counsel for the appellant contended that the legal obligation to look after an individual’s needs and ensure proper feeding arises only when that person is unable to care for themselves or is in a helpless condition. The counsel argued that such persons who are unable to look after themselves typically include lunatics, infants, and old people and that the victim was not one among them. 
  • The counsel also argued that a husband’s duty does not extend to physically feeding his wife; rather, it is limited to providing adequate funds to ensure the availability of food for the wife. 
  • Furthermore, the appellants contended that the essentials under Section 511 and Section 307 of the IPC are different. Under Section 511, which pertains to punishment for attempting to commit an offence, the act need not be the last one, it could also be the first act. On the other hand, for an act to be punishable under Section 307, which deals with the attempt to murder, it must be the final act and should have the potential to cause death. In the present case, the appellants contended that the act of starving the victim could not have been the last act leading to murder, as required under Section 307. They argued that, for an explicit attempt to commit murder, the starvation period would have needed to be longer.
  • The counsel for appellants also put forth several precedents of various High courts to substantiate their arguments. The first case mentioned was Queen Empress v. Nidha (1892) where Nidha upon noticing Chowkidars approaching, pulled the trigger of the blunderbuss he was carrying while absconding. In this case, he was held liable by the Allahabad High Court under Sections 299 and 300 read with Section 511 and not under Section 307. The Hon’ble judge in this case relied on the Bombay case, Regina v. Francis Cassidy (1867) Bom. H.C. Reps. 4 (Crown Cases) to provide the judgement.
  • In Regina v. Francis Cassidy (1867), it was established that to constitute an offence of attempt to murder, the act performed must be capable of causing death in the natural and ordinary course of events. Justice Straight, in this case, noted that an intervening act cannot invalidate the criminal liability of the accused. The judge in the case further observed, that merely purchasing a matchstick does not constitute an attempt to start a fire, rather the necessary intent, along with the performance of an act to light the matchstick to start the fire, is required for the conviction under Section 307. Even an intervening factor like a puff of air cannot serve as a defence to escape liability. Justice Straight emphasised that despite intervening obstacles, the last act i.e., lighting of a matchstick must be performed, for the offence to be committed. In the present case of Om Prakash v. State of Punjab, the counsel pointed out that the last act was not performed.
  • Additionally, the counsel referred to Mi Pu v. Emperor where poisoning of food led to a conviction under Section 328 read with Section 511 of IPC. 
  • The appellants also cited Jeetmal v. State (1949), where it was held that an act which, by itself and ordinarily, can cause death in the natural course of events shall be punishable under Section 307. In this case, the act performed by the accused, i.e., starving the victim, cannot be considered to cause death by itself.
  • Lastly, the counsel pleaded that the accused was innocent and if guilty, Section 511 of the IPC shall apply and not Section 307. 

The law discussed in the case of Om Prakash v. State of Punjab (1961)

Om Prakash v. State of Punjab is a criminal law case that revolves around several aspects of the IPC. The legal provisions discussed in this case include:

Section 307

Section 307 of IPC defines the offence of ‘attempt to murder’ and prescribes punishment for the same. The ingredients of the offence of attempt to murder are as follows:

  • There was an attempt to cause death 
  • The accused performed this act of attempt to murder
  • The act performed by the accused was done
    • With the intention of causing death, or
    • With an intention to cause bodily injury knowing that such an act could cause death in the ordinary course of the event. In other words, the accused performed an act which was explicitly dangerous that most probably could cause death or could cause bodily injury that was likely to cause death in normal circumstances and this fact is known to the accused while committing such an act.

For committing the offence of ‘attempt to murder’, the offender can be punished with imprisonment, either rigorous or simple, for a term of 10 years, along with a fine. If any injury is caused to the victim due to the act of the offender, then the offender can also be given life imprisonment.

In the present case, the court observed that the term “act” encompasses not only a particular, specific, instantaneous act but also denotes a series of acts. Therefore, the course of conduct adopted by the appellant in regular Bimla Devi comprised a series of acts, falling within the purview of Section 307 of the Code. 

Criminal litigation

Section 308

Section 308 of the IPC defines the offence of ‘attempt to commit culpable homicide’ and prescribes the punishment. The ingredients of Section 308 are as follows:

  • Intention or knowledge: If an act is committed with the intention to cause death or with the knowledge that it could lead to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, Section 308 will be applicable.
  • Commission of an act: Along with the requisite intention, an act i.e., an attempt to perform the crime of culpable homicide not amounting to murder is necessary. Culpable homicide not amounting to murder and murder differ based on the element of intention. 

Further, Section 308 of IPC provides a punishment of imprisonment of either description, for a period of up to three years, with a fine, or both. If any injury is caused to the victim due to the act of the offender, a punishment of up to seven years, or with a fine, or both can be awarded.

Section 511

Section 511 of the IPC specifies the punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with life imprisonment or other imprisonment. Ingredients of this section are:

  • Intention: Mens rea is an essential element for most IPC offences. In an attempt to commit an offence, the intention to commit the act refers to the commission of an attempt to commit the act but with the inability to commit the actual act or was not successful in committing the same.
  • Attempt to commit an offence: This provision requires the attempt to commit an offence. The performance of an act along with intention is considered an offence under Section 511 of IPC. The actual commission of the offence cannot be punished under this section.
  • Act: The act attempted to be performed must be such that it is punishable with life imprisonment or other imprisonment as provided under the IPC or an act for which no punishment has been provided by the IPC. 
  • Further, Section 511 IPC also specifies that if no other provision of the IPC has specified any punishment for this offence then, the offender could be punished for a term that extends to one-half of the term of life imprisonment, or half of the longest term of imprisonment that may be given for that offence. Additionally, a fine may or may not be imposed.

Judgment in Om Prakash v. State of Punjab (1961)

An appeal, by special leave, was brought before the Supreme Court, against the order of the Punjab High Court dismissing the appellant’s appeal against his conviction under Section 307 of the IPC. The Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the High Court judgment. The court gave a verdict in favour of the respondents and convicted the accused under Section 307 i.e., attempt to murder. The court noted that all elements of Section 307 were fulfilled in this case and, while doing so, the court also analysed the cases cited by the appellants.

The rationale behind this judgment

Inability to look after herself

The Appellant contended that the accused had no duty to feed Bimla Devi. They argued that his duty was limited to providing funds for food, which he had done. The Supreme Court relied on the findings of the lower court, which explained how Bimla Devi was intentionally confined and starved to quickly meet her end, to highlight the role played by the appellant in this scheme. The court further concluded that these findings contradict the argument of the counsel that the appellant provided funds and food for his wife.

Section 511 and Section 307

  • The appellants had contended that Section 511 and not Section 307 would be applicable in this case. They argued that the act of making someone starve alone was not sufficient to cause death and, thus, Section 307 could not be invoked. 
  • The court disagreed with this contention. The court noted that both Sections 307 and 308 were expressed in the same manner. So, if Section 307 was to be interpreted as requested by the appellant, then Section 308 should also be interpreted along the same lines. But, Section 307 covers all ‘attempt to murder’ cases, and Section 511 applies only to cases punishable with life imprisonment; the same cannot be applied to Section 308. Additionally, the court also observed that Section 511 would apply even in cases of culpable homicide not amounting to murder if there was no separate provision for ‘attempt to culpable homicide’.
  • The court relied on Abhayanand Mishra v. The State of Bihar (1961) where it was held that a person commits an offence under Section 307 IPC when he intends to commit the offence, makes preparations for the same, and performs an act towards the commission of the crime. In Abhyanand Mishra case, it was further held that such an act performed need not be the penultimate act for committing the crime, but it was enough if the act was committed during the course of committing the offence. The court, thus, observed that a person would be deemed to have committed an offence under Section 308 if they have an intention to commit the crime of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and, in pursuance of such intention, commits an act towards the commission of the offence, irrespective of whether it is the penultimate act or not. The Supreme Court in the present case found that the same would be applicable to Section 307 as well.
  • The court further observed that the phrase, ‘whoever attempts to commit an offence’ under Section 511 simply means someone who intends to perform an act with the necessary intent or knowledge to commit the act and that this could not be interpreted to specify that the act performed needs to be the penultimate act. The court noted that the same would be applied to Section 307 i.e., ‘whoever does an act with such intention and knowledge’ simply means that an act with requisite intention or knowledge needs to be performed. Further, the court also noted that the expression ‘by that act’ under Section 307 would not mean the last or penultimate act.
  • The court also discussed Section 33 of the IPC to highlight that ‘the act’ performed to commit an offence need not be an isolated act but could be a series of acts. Therefore, the court held that the regular act of deliberately starving the victim by the accused was a series of acts which could have resulted in murder. Thus, the court held that there was no bar on the applicability of Section 307.

Court observation on the cases cited by the appellant

Queen Empress v. Nidha (1892)

  • In this case, the accused was convicted under Sections 299 and 300 read with Section 511, and not under Section 307. The judge, in this case, relied on Justice Straight’s interpretation in the Bombay case of Regina v. Francis Casisy. Justice Straight noted that a person with evil intent must perform a last act towards the commission of the offence. Further, Justice Straight gave the example of firing a stack to explain this point. Justice Straight noted that no one by just trying to buy matchsticks from a shop could be held liable for attempting to burn the stack. But, if he with the intent to light the stack goes to the place and lights the match which is put off by the wind, Justice Straight observed that could cause an offence. The last act would have been putting the lighted matchstick on the stack, but this was put out by the wind.
  • Regarding this argument, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that illustration (d) of Section 307 contradicted the contented view. According to the illustration, when A, to murder Z, buys poison, mixes it with the food and keeps the food to himself, then he does not commit an offence. But, when A delivers it to Z, through his servant, then he shall be held liable under this section. The court observed that, according to Section 307 illustration (d), it was not necessary for A to directly serve the food to Z i.e., perform the last act towards the commission of the offence. It could be concluded from Section 307 illustration (d) that A’s last act need not be one that must cause death. According to the illustration, A could not have directly served the food to Z, and it could be inferred that A’s act by delivering the food to Z was equivalent to A directly serving it.
  • The court further noted that this view of Justice Straight was with reference to attempts to commit offences in general and not Section 307. The court also pointed out that the purpose behind Justice Straight’s statements was to ensure that nobody could benefit from an intervening act towards the commission of the offence and not to establish the importance of performing a last act.
  • Additionally, the court observed that Justice Straight himself had said earlier that, for attracting liability under Section 307, two things were required, that is, an intention or knowledge and the overt act.

Cases referred by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court referred to and discussed some precedents of different courts while analysing this case. They are:

 Emperor v. Vasudeo Balwant Gogte (1932)

  • In the case of Emperor v. Vasudeo Balwant Gogte (1932), the accused fired shots to injure another person, but due to an obstruction, the victim did not get injured. Despite this, the accused was still convicted under Section 307 by the Allahabad High Court. Justice Beaumont noted in this case, “I think that what section 307 really means is that the accused must do an act with such a guilty intention and knowledge and in such circumstances that but for some intervening fact the act would have amounted to murder in the normal course of events“.
  • The court, applying the same reasoning to the present case, observed that the intervening factor here was the escape of Bimla Devi, and her succeeding in reaching the hospital and securing treatment and, if not for that, the accused would have slowly murdered her.

Rex v. White (1910)

  • In this case, the son was accused of attempting to murder his mother by putting two drops of cyanide potassium in her wine glass. It was argued in this case that the act of putting poison was a completed act and did not possess the ability to kill unless it was supplemented with a few other acts, which may not happen. This argument was dismissed in Rex v. White (1910) and it was observed by the court of appeal that this was a case of murder by slow poisoning. To establish an ‘attempt to murder’ completion of even one of a series of acts to commit the intended crime was enough, even though this completed act needed to be coupled with other acts to actually be able to commit the offence. 
  • The court in this case further observed that the beginning of the attempt, not the completion of the attempt to commit the offence, needed to be proven for attempting an offence. Therefore, the Supreme Court, relying on this case, noted that the beginning of an attempt to commit murder was completed by the accused by deliberately starving and beating the victim. 
  • Thus, after dismissing the appellants’ arguments and discussing relevant cases, the court concluded that the accused was guilty under Section 307 of IPC and dismissed the appeal.

Mi Pu v. Emperor (1909)

  • In Mi Pu v. Emperor (1909) 10 Cri. L.J. 363, a person who put poison in the food was convicted under Section 328 read with Section 511 of IPC. In the present case, the court noted that this was because of a lack of proper evidence on the quantity and the consequences of the poison that was mixed and not because of the nature of the act. Therefore, the court noted that this case was irrelevant to the present case.

Jeetmal v. State (1949)

  • In this case, it was held that an act under Section 307 must be capable of causing death in the natural course of events. The appellants had argued that starvation could not ordinarily cause death. With reference to this, the Supreme Court observed that the rule established in Jeetmal v. State was upheld in the Cassidy case; however, it disapproved in the Nidha and Gogte case.

Analysis of Om Prakash v. State of Punjab (1961)

Om Prakash v. State of Punjab is a landmark case on Section 307 of IPC. Here, the appellant was held liable for attempting to murder his wife by starving her to death. This case, in detail, debates the ability of this novel method to result in murder. Sections 307, 308, and 511 were analysed by the court. Some aspects of the judgement are as follows:

  • Elements of Section 307: Om Prakash v. State of Punjab is one of the oldest cases that established the ingredients of Section 307. From this case, it can be observed that Section 307 requires only an intention to commit the offence, or knowledge that the act may result in death, and the performance of an act towards the commission of the offence. This judgement also helps clarify doubts surrounding Section 307 by laying down that the nature of the act, intervention during the commission of the act, and the consequences of the act i.e., its ability to cause death, need not be considered under Section 307. A similar view was made by the Supreme Court in its subsequent judgement, Ramla v. State (1961), where it was held that “for the purpose of Section 307, what is material is the intention or knowledge not the consequence of the actual act done for the purpose of carrying out the intention.” 
  • Interpretation of the word ‘act’ under Section 307: It was highly debated in the case whether the act of starvation and that too with an intervention period could attract Section 307 of IPC. The court here acknowledged the use and ability of starvation as a viable method of murder. The judgement clarified that an act under Section 307, need not be the last act performed before the offence. It also correctly laid down that every act committed in the course of attempting to commit murder, irrespective of the timing and ability, shall be punishable under Section 307. By establishing these principles, this case appropriately broadened the scope of ‘an act’ under Section 307 IPC.
  • Consideration of intervention: Drawing from the case of Emperor v. Balwant Gogte, this case reiterated the effect of an intervention on the applicability of Section 307. This court laid down that interventions to the act of attempting to commit murder shall not vitiate the liability of the accused under Section 307. For example, if A shoots B, but because the gun was faulty and, hence, did not injure B, A will still be held liable under Section 307 IPC. 
  • Examination of cruelty: Another important aspect of this case, is cruelty inflicted by the appellant on the victim. Domestic cruelty refers to the infliction of physical, or mental pain and the dominance of one partner over the other. This ghastly crime, where the husband starved the wife to death represents the highest version of domestic cruelty. This case has shattered traditional notions of a family, namely, love, care, and understanding. The motive behind the husband committing such an offence, and the reason behind the family permitting it, pose questions that even behaviourists would find troubling. Therefore, this case also has a deep social impact, as aptly emphasised by the court.


Om Prakash v. State of Punjab is significant because it helps clarify doubts surrounding Section 307. Historically, the court in this case explained the elements of Section 307. This case also explains the differences between Sections 307, 308, and 511 of the IPC and also specifies different circumstances for the application of these sections. This case is not only insightful for its legal provisional analysis and interpretation of relevant cases. The acts committed by the accused, including Om Prakash, also deeply affected society, shattering fundamental societal values. Notwithstanding these, the Om Prakash case is a landmark case that shall primarily be remembered for laying down that an attempt to murder needs an intention and an act, and that the act could be the beginning or end of an attempt to commit the offence. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Section 307 of IPC?

Section 307 of IPC talks about the offence of ‘attempt to murder’. Attempt to murder requires an intention to commit an offence and performance of an act towards the commission of the offence. The punishment for attempted murder could be 10 years along with a fine, or even life imprisonment or other punishment if hurt is caused.

Is it necessary for the act performed under Section 307 of IPC to be the last Act?

In Om Prakash v. State of Punjab, the court laid down that any act performed towards the commission of the offence shall be punishable under Section 307. It was held that even the commencement of an attempt to commit an offence shall be punishable. For example, attempting to shoot from a far distance, though it may not injure the victim, shall be punishable under this Section. 

When is Section 511 of IPC invoked?

Section 511 IPC can be invoked during situations where no other existing provision of IPC provides punishment for the “attempt” to commit some offence whose punishment is life imprisonment or other imprisonment is committed. Section 511 IPC can be invoked, provided the above conditions are fulfilled to reduce the punishment to one-half of the longest term of imprisonment imposed for the particular offence.


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