October 28, 2021

Culpable Homicide and Murder under IPC

Culpable Homicide and Murder

Introduction

Homicide i.e., killing of one human by another human; homo which means a man and ‘cida’ which means to kill, both are Latin terms together forming homicide. So, we see that all homicide does not includes murder. Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with culpable homicide, so it will state the acts which does include killing of human but does not equals to murdering a person. (For Section 299, refer end of this notes)

Murder: murder means to kill a person just like homicide means so, murder is homicide, but all homicides are not murder, so clearly homicide is a wider term even though murder is considered to be more intensive, and graver and law punishes the murderer more than one who commits culpable homicide. Section 300 of the IPC deals with definition of murder. (For Section 300, refer end of this notes)

Difference

Difference is based on “knowledge.”

The person committing the act had complete knowledge that by committing a certain offence he is totally aware and sure that the person with whom he did that act will surely die, that there remains no chances that such person could in anyway survive and knowing that he did it accompanied with the fact that he did it with free will and had the intention to do so, he wanted that person to die and did an act deliberately knowingly all his actions, intent and consequences of it would amount to be murder.

 However, it is difficult to prove that knowledge in court as offender can decline of that intention or knowledge so that his punishment would fall under definition of 299 and not 300.

Whereas if the case if of culpable homicide not amounting to murder it would be different in terms of mens rea and knowledge of certain death. If there is presence of both then it is murder but if there is absence of knowledge of death then it is not murder. It would include intention to kill but not the certainty of that person to die.

For e.g., Z who have disliking for X, wants X to die and pray every day that X may die, and X dies so it does not mean that Z have killed X because praying does not ensure death of X, it does not amount to any crime. But if Z would have pushed X into a pit hole 8 feet’s deep and left him there and in consequence X died. Z did it out of utter hatred but did not know that pushing him in 8 feet pit hole would amount to his death so it would amount to culpable homicide. In another case if Z pushed him in that hole and ensured no water and food supply or air supply un till he dies would be murder as anyone would die when food and water is not supplied.

  1. Likeliness of Happening of Death
  2. The definition of section 299 i.e., culpable homicide not amounting to murder includes the word likeliness which specifically creates difference between the two[1].
  3. The intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
  4. With the knowledge that he is likely by such an act can cause death.
  5. Ingredients of section 300: culpable homicide amounting to murder:
  6. “If it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused”
  7. “If it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death”
  8. “If the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death…
  9. The definitions in both the sections create distinction by use of the words likely to cause death in section 299 and knowledge of causing death in section 300.
  10. In the case of Nara Singh Challan vs. State of Orissa[2], the court held that section 299 is genus and section 300 is its species. So, all culpable homicide are murder but not all murder are homicide.
  11. In the case of Reg vs Govinda[3], ILR 1 Bom 342 the accused hit his wife with three punches and kept his feet over her chest, and she died in the consequence of the hit having bloodshed. The court punished him with culpable homicide not amounting to murder as it was not likely to cause death necessarily.

Punishment

In the case of in State of A.P. v. R. Punnayya[4], ((1976) 4 SCC 382) justice sarkaria J” said that there are three degrees of punishment offering for culpable homicide the first is the gravest form of punishment for murder under section 300. The second degree is defined under section 304 part I which is less graver. Then the least grave punishment is the third-degree punishment which is in part II of section 304. The punishment is imposed by the courts on the basis of whether it is murder or culpable homicide.

What Causes Confusion?

There is a very subtle difference between the two as it gets very difficult to prove intention and knowledge and also to decide whether n act is grave enough or not. This dilemma prevails with the courts and has been decided by using various precedents by mere reading it would appear very much like to any lay man. It all depends on the facts of the circumstances sometimes same act could be either culpable homicide or murder, the difference could be drawn on the basis of knowledge which can be found by looking if the accused had some full proof pre planning to kill a person then it would definitely fall under murder on the other hand if a person did an act out of grave provocation or sudden anger or due to some instigation by some other person or under fear of own death or someone else near to that person such acts wouldn’t be coming under murder[5].

Important Case Laws

RAM KUMAR VS STATE OF CHATTISGRH[6]:

  • In this case the defendant was given punishment under section 302 for murder by the district court for his offence of hitting his sister in law on her head because he did not want her to marry, the girl directly went to police station after being hit by the man but after then she died, court considered that FIR as her dying declaration, deeming everything she lodged to be true and sentenced the man with section 302 i.e., punishment for murder
  • But the man then appealed to the high court and the high court observed that the girl could have directly moved to the hospital instead of approaching the police station after being hit. This delay is the reason of her death and hitting on her head was not certain to cause her death and hence the high court sentenced him under section 304 of IPC which was second degree punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

BHAGWAN SINGH VS STATE OF UTTRAKHAND[7]

  • In this case the accused had fired bullets pointing towards the roof in a dwelling house while celebrating an event. Those bullets deflected back from the roof and injured 5 people out which 2 people died.
  • The accused pleaded not guilty claiming that he did not have any intention to kill someone, the bullets were fired just for celebration.
  • The court observed that these events are taking place very widely now and as this is extremely dangerous to fire bullets towards a roof that too when there are so many people surrounding it was somewhere negligent on the accused’s behalf to do such an act which could have been foreseen, so the court held him guilty under section 302 part 1 i.e., the second-degree punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

MACCHI SINGH VS STATE OF RAJASTHAN[8]:

This case is relevant case because it states about the intensity of punishment offering to the accused, the court decided to not give death penalty to all the person committing crimes.

  • When the murder committed is extremely brutal, ridiculous, diabolical, disgusting, or Reprehensible manner that arouses intense and extreme indignation from the community.
  • for example, setting fire to someone’s house with the intention of burning him alive.
  • The scale of the crime is large scale, which means that it caused several deaths.
  • When death is caused by the person’s caste and creed.
  • When the accused’s motives were cruelty or total depravity; Yes
  • When the murder victim is an innocent child, woman, or helpless person (due to old age or illness), a public figure, etc.

Conclusion

It is natural for any common person to be confused between section 299 and 300 as both shows very similar definitions, the difference is very subtle and can be found in the words of the definitions itself. Both have been discriminated by the legislature very aptly by giving different punishments for both the crimes one for murder which can even lead to capital punishment although capital punishment is rarely provided the courts try to not provide capital punishments much and In fact be lenient with the culprits and this some where has been the reason behind creating two different crimes one of culpable homicide amounting to murder and another culpable homicide not amounting to murder as creating a thin line of this difference was necessary for the courts.

The court have been creating the difference between the two-form time to time via setting precedents as the difference.

Important Sections for Easy Reference

Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide.

Illustrations

(a) A lays sticks and turf over a pit, with the intention of thereby causing death, or with the knowledge that death is likely to be thereby caused. Z, believing the ground to be firm, treads on it, falls in and is killed. A has committed the offence of culpable homicide.

(b) A knows Z to be behind a bush. B does not know it. A, intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely to cause Z’s death, induces B to fire at the bush. B fires and kills Z. Here B may be guilty of no offence; but A has committed the offence of culpable homicide.

(c) A, by shooting at a fowl with intent to kill and steal it, kills B, who is behind a bush; A not knowing that he was there. Here, although A was doing an unlawful act, he was not guilty of culpable homicide, as he did not intend to kill B, or to cause death by doing an act that he knew was likely to cause death.

Explanation 1.—A person who causes bodily injury to another who is labouring under a disorder, disease or bodily infirmity, and thereby accelerates the death of that other, shall be deemed to have caused his death.

Explanation 2.—Where death is caused by bodily injury, the person who causes such bodily injury shall be deemed to have caused the death, although by resorting to proper remedies and skilful treatment the death might have been prevented.

Explanation 3.—The causing of the death of a child in the mother’s womb is not homicide. But it may amount to culpable homicide to cause the death of a living child, if any part of that child has been brought forth, though the child may not have breathed or been completely born.

Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Except in the cases hereinafter excepted, culpable homicide is murder, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or—

2ndly.—If it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused, or—

3rdly.—If it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, or—

4thly.—If the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid.


Illustrations

(a) A shoots Z with the intention of killing him. Z dies in consequence. A commits murder.

(b) A, knowing that Z is labouring under such a disease that a blow is likely to cause his death, strikes him with the intention of causing bodily injury. Z dies in consequence of the blow. A is guilty of murder, although the blow might not have been sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause the death of a person in a sound state of health. But if A, not knowing that Z is labouring under any disease, gives him such a blow as would not in the ordinary course of nature kill a person in a sound state of health, here A, although he may intend to cause bodily injury, is not guilty of murder, if he did not intend to cause death, or such bodily injury as in the ordinary course of nature would cause death.

(c) A intentionally gives Z a sword-cut or club-wound sufficient to cause the death of a man in the ordinary course of nature. Z dies in consequence. Here A is guilty of murder, although he may not have intended to cause Z’s death.

(d) A without any excuse fires a loaded cannon into a crowd of persons and kills one of them. A is guilty of murder, although he may not have had a premeditated design to kill any particular individual.

Exception 1.—When culpable homicide is not murder.—Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation or causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident.

The above exception is subject to the following provisos:—

First.—That the provocation is not sought or voluntarily provoked by the offender as an excuse for killing or doing harm to any person.

Secondly.—That the provocation is not given by anything done in obedience to the law, or by a public servant in the lawful exercise of the powers of such public servant.

Thirdly.—That the provocation is not given by anything done in the lawful exercise of the right of private defence.

Explanation.—Whether the provocation was grave and sudden enough to prevent the offence from amounting to murder is a question of fact.


Illustrations

(a) A, under the influence of passion excited by a provocation given by Z, intentionally kills Y, Z’s child. This is murder, inasmuch as the provocation was not given by the child, and the death of the child was not caused by accident or misfortune in doing an act caused by the provocation.

(b) Y gives grave and sudden provocation to A. A, on this provocation, fires a pistol at Y, neither intending nor knowing himself to be likely to kill Z, who is near him, but out of sight. A kills Z. Here A has not committed murder, but merely culpable homicide.

(c) A is lawfully arrested by Z, a bailiff. A is excited to sudden and violent passion by the arrest, and kills Z. This is murder, inasmuch as the provocation was given by a thing done by a public servant in the exercise of his powers.

(d) A appears as a witness before Z, a Magistrate. Z says that he does not believe a word of A’s deposition, and that A has perjured himself. A is moved to sudden passion by these words, and kills Z. This is murder.

(e)A attempts to pull Z’s nose. Z, in the exercise of the right of private defence, lays hold of A to prevent him from doing so. A is moved to sudden and violent passion in consequence, and kills Z. This is murder, inasmuch as the provocation was giving by a thing done in the exercise of the right of private defence.

(f) Z strikes B. B is by this provocation excited to violent rage. A, a bystander, intending to take advantage of B’s rage, and to cause him to kill Z, puts a knife into B’s hand for that purpose. B kills Z with the knife. Here B may have committed only culpable homicide, but A is guilty of murder.

Exception 2.—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.

Illustration

Z attempts to horsewhip A, not in such a manner as to cause grievous hurt to A. A draws out a pistol. Z persists in the assault. A believing in good faith that he can by no other means prevent himself from being horsewhipped, shoots Z dead. A has not committed murder, but only culpable homicide.

Exception 3.—Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, being a public servant or aiding a public servant acting for the advancement of public justice, exceeds the powers given to him by law, and causes death by doing an act which he, in good faith, believes to be lawful and necessary for the due discharge of his duty as such public servant and without ill-will towards the person whose death is caused.

Exception 4.—Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel and without the offender’s having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.

Explanation.—It is immaterial in such cases which party offers the provocation or commits the first assault.

Exception 5.—Culpable homicide is not murder when the person whose death is caused, being above the age of eighteen years, suffers death or takes the risk of death with his own consent.


Illustration

A, by instigation, voluntarily causes Z, a person under eighteen years of age to commit suicide. Here, on account of Z’s youth, he was incapable of giving consent to his own death; A has therefore abetted murder.


[1] Null, S. (2013). Homicide Punishment Under Indian Penal Code, 1890. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2250646

[2] Nara Singh Chauhan vs. State of Orissa, 997 CriLJ 2204, 1997 I OLR 243

[3] Reg vs Govinda, (1877) ILR 1 Bom 342

[4] State of A.P. v. R. Punnayya, ((1976) 4 SCC 382)

[5]Leader-Elliott, I. D. (2010). Revising the Law of Murder in the Indian Penal Code: A Macaulayan Reconstruction of Provocation and Sudden Fight. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1538643

[6] Ram Kumar vs state of Chhattisgarh, Criminal Appeal No. 1372 of 2016 | 22-07-2019

[7] Bhagwan Singh vs state of Uttarakhand, (2020) 18 Crl. Ap. 407

[8] Macchi Singh vs. state of Rajasthan, 1983 AIR 957, 1983 SCR (3) 413

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