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This article is written by Ilashri Gaur, a law student pursuing B.A LLB (Hons.) from Teerthanker Mahaveer University. This is a detailed article containing all the relevant information about section 511 of IPC.

Introduction

Laws punish not only acts amounting to offences but also take action against such wrongful acts which are harmful for the society. What does an attempt mean? If an attempt is like that of preparation, if not then what is the difference? When you read this many such questions arise in your mind. So, let us understand these terms.

The word ‘’Attempt’’ means to try to do something. It can also be understood as an act towards the commission of the offence which fails due to circumstances independent of the attempter’s will. Thus, it means any voluntary act which does not productify into yielding the intended results.

The attempt is not defined in the Indian Penal Code. Section 511 of the IPC only dealt with the punishment for attempting to commit an offence. Attempt is also known as preliminary or inchoate crime as it is something which is not yet completed. 

If we talk about the difference between the ‘attempt’ and ‘preparation’ then there is a very thin line between preparation and attempt. Preparation and attempt are two different things that are required in the commission of a crime. ‘Preparation’ means arranging the means to perform a task for committing any offence whereas the ‘Attempt’ is a stage that comes after preparation in which a person is ready with all the means to attempt a crime.

Attempt to Commit an Offense

A person commits the offence of ‘’attempt to commit a particular offence’’ when the person:

  • intends to commit that particular offence
  • Do preparation for the same
  • Does any act towards its commission

Kenny, the celebrated author of Criminal Law has said that criminality of the attempt lies in the intention (mens rea), but this must be evidenced by what the accused has actually done towards the attainment of his ultimate objective.

Stages of crime

The term criminal law refers to substantive criminal laws. This defines crime and the punishment which is already decided. In contrast, the Criminal Procedure defines the process through which the courts can enforce criminal law. For example, the law which prohibits murder is a substantive criminal law. Let us discuss the various stages of crime.

  1. Intention: This is the first stage of any offence and it is also called the mental and the psycho stage. It is very difficult to prove the intention of anyone, just having an intention will not constitute an offence. Everyone is presumed safe unless proven guilty. This stage exists when the culprit first takes into consideration the idea or intention to commit an offence. The bitter fact or truth about this stage is that the law cannot punish the person by assuming to do any illegal act.
  2. Preparation: The preparation is the second stage to commit the offence. In this, all the necessary resources are arranged which are required for the execution of the intentional criminal act. Intention and Preparation are not alone enough to constitute the crime. It is not punishable because it is difficult to prove. In many cases, the prosecution fails to prove that the preparation in the question is for the execution of a particular crime or not.
  3. Attempt: The third stage is when he attempts to commit an offence, if the third stage is successful then finally the actual commission of the offence takes place. An attempt is a direct movement towards the execution of the crime after the preparation of the plan. A mere intention to commit an offence is not punishable. Similarly, mere preparation is not made punishable by the code except under some conditions. Moreover, a person is guilty of attempting to commit an offence even though the facts are such that the execution of the offences seems to be impossible.
  4. Accomplishment: Accomplishment is the last stage in the compilation of the offence. It is considered a successful completion. If the accused becomes successful in his attempt to commit the crime, he will be guilty of the complete offence. Moreover, if his attempt is unsuccessful he will be guilty of his attempt. 

Is an Attempt a Crime?

An attempt is not necessarily a crime, it becomes when an attempt reaches a point at which an act is done towards the commission of the offence. So, it can be said that any attempt to commit an offence can be said to begin after the preparations for the same are completed and the offender begins to do something with the intention to commit an offence. The ingredients which are required to consider it as an Attempt:

  • Guilty mind
  • Some act to be done in order to commit a crime

Illustrations

  1. ‘A’ plans to do robbery in a bank and for that, he goes to the bank where he finds a man in trouble, and instead of focusing on the offence for which he went to the bank he helped that man. So in this case, the person is not convicted under an attempt because he is not fulfilling all the ingredients.
  2. ‘A’ plans to pass fake currency notes, but does not act towards such passing. He is not guilty of attempt, though he may be guilty of possessing fake notes. If he goes to the market and hands over the fake one note to the shopkeeper with the intention then he is guilty of an attempt under section 511. If he passes that fake currency by mistake then he might not be guilty for the offence as the ingredients of attempt are necessary.
  3. ‘A’ makes an attempt to steal some jewels by breaking a box and when he opens that box he finds nothing in it, so in that case, ‘A’ will come under section 511.
  4. ‘A’ and ‘B’ are going to the party while coming back from the party. ‘A’ tries to steal B’s purse to steal the money but he finds nothing in that purse. In this case also he committed an offence and it will be considered under section 511.

The following points may be noted in regard to ’Attempt’:

  1. Under section 511, it is not necessary for the offences that the transaction commenced must end in crime or offence, if not interrupted.
  2. An act which is done with the intention and preparation and the commission of an act was proposed in such a manner which was impossible to work then it will not be an attempt. Let us make it more clear with an illustration, if a person believes in witchcraft and he puts a spell on another person, or burns him in a statue or curses him. He will not be convicted of an attempt to cause hurt, because what he does is not an act towards the commission of that offence, but an act towards the commission of something which cannot according to the ordinary human experience result in hurt to another. There is a case regarding the same Asgarali Pradhania vs Emperor (1933), in this case, it was held that an appellant is convicted for a crime of an attempt to cause a miscarriage. A girl who was of 20 years was married but divorced with consent. She was living in her father’s house and she used to sleep in the cook-shed. The appellant was the neighbour who had lent his money to her father. He promised to marry her but when she got pregnant he advised her to abort the child and bring her a liquid and a powder and asked her to take when she didn’t take that then he forcefully tried to give her and then she shouted the family member gathered and he fled from there. At the end when that powder and liquid were checked by a doctor it was said that it could not harm anybody because it was in very less amount. The judgment was passed that he cannot be, come under section 511 because neither that liquid nor that powder can cause miscarriage that’s why he cannot be contempt under this.
  3. A person is said to commit an offence of attempt also in the case in which he voluntarily abstains from the actual commission of the crime.
  4. An attempt is made punishable because every attempt even though it fails, must create or cause alarm, which of itself is an injury and the moral guilt of the offender is the same as if he had been successful. However, the injury here is not as serious as in the case of actual crime, the punishment is one half of that for the actual crime.
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What is an Inchoate Crime?

The term ‘Inchoate’ means ‘just begun’ or which is ‘not formed fully’ it can be simply said a thing which is in the early stage.

Inchoate crime is a primary crime, this is a crime even though intended results are not accomplished. As it is the truth that only the intention of the person will not make him the culprit but it is necessary that any activity with a bad intention which is obvious and can be seen, heard, observed or analyzed is considered to be a crime.

Hence, to conclude it with a simple definition it can be said that, the crime is not complete in itself unless it makes it clear that a person’s intention is bad and is something against the law is known as Inchoate Crime.

There are few inchoate crimes in the Indian Penal Code which are made punishable within the code itself and one such crime is ‘attempt’. These are made punishable because inchoate crimes are observed as a “crime committed by doing an act with the purpose of effecting some other offence.

These crimes are like steps taken in anticipation to complete the main crime and are different in meaning. This is one of the reasons that penal laws hold these types of acts as a crime too and hence, they are named as ‘Anticipatory crimes’ or ‘Preliminary crimes’.

Section 511 of IPC- Punishment for attempting to commit offences 

Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code says that the punishment for attempting to commit offences is punishable with the imprisonment for life or other imprisonments. It says that whosoever attempts to commit an offence will be punishable under this section either with the imprisonment or life imprisonment. If any attempt did for the commission of an offence then there will be no provision made by this Code for the punishment of such attempt, he will be punished for the imprisonment for the provided term which may extend to the one-half for the life or with a fine provided for the offence or by both.

Classification of Offences:

It says that the offence either cognizable or non-cognizable and offence attempted by the offender is bailable or not and the trial by the court took place for that offence attempted by the offender.

Section 511 is a general provision dealing with the attempts to commit offences not made punishable by other specific sections. It makes all attempts to commit offences punishable with the imprisonment and not all those punishable with death. An attempt is made punishable because every attempt, falls short of success, must create alarm, which itself is an injury and the moral guilt of the offender is the same as if he had succeeded. Moral guilt must be integrated to justify the punishment, if the injury is not as great as the act committed then only half the punishment will be awarded.

The moment the culprit starts to do an act with the necessary intention, he commences his attempt to commit the offence.

Conclusion

Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code provides that anyone who commits actual commission of the offence will be guilty under this. In this article, the attempt is discussed in-depth and the essentials which are required to commit the crime. Intention to kill someone cannot be said as an offence but if someone does kill a person then it will come under an offence.

Various principles have been determined whether a mere preparation comes under an offence or not. As it was said that a guilty mind is not only required to be a criminal, even an act must also be guilty to be hence proved.


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