Chapter 16 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, deals with crimes related to the human body. It covers different kinds of offences involving harm to people. One such offence is “culpable homicide,” as section 299 of the IPC explains.
Culpable Homicide in Indian Penal Code (IPC) is the act of causing the death of another person, which is considered the most terrible crime in the world.
To understand it better, let’s break down the term “culpable homicide.” “Culpable” means being responsible for something wrong or blameworthy. “Homicide” comes from two Latin words, “homi”, meaning man, and “cido” meaning to cut. So, “homicide” refers to killing one human being by another.
What is Culpable Homicide in IPC?
Culpable Homicide in IPC refers to causing the death of a person by engaging in acts with the intention of causing death, intending to cause such bodily injury that is likely to cause death, or having knowledge that the act is likely to cause death. It is a serious offence, but distinct from murder, as it lacks certain elements of premeditation and extreme culpability.
Culpable homicide under Section 299 IPC focuses on the offender’s intention and knowledge, making it a crucial legal concept in distinguishing various degrees of criminal liability for causing the death of another person.
What is Section 299 IPC?
Section 299 IPC states:
“299. Culpable Homicide.—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.
(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.”
Essentials of Section 299 IPC
Section 299 IPC defines culpable Homicide. It states that if a person causes the death of another in any of the following ways:
- By doing an act to cause death.
- Doing an act to cause bodily injury likely to cause death.
- By doing an act knowing it is likely to cause death.
- Then, that person commits the crime of culpable Homicide in IPC.
Here’s an example to understand this better:
Let’s say there are three people involved, X, Y, and Z. X knows that Z is hiding behind a bush, but Y is unaware of it. X, with the intention of causing Z’s death or knowing that Z’s death is likely, persuades Y to shoot at the bush. Y, following X’s instructions, fires and unfortunately kills Z. In this situation, Y may not be held guilty of any offence, but X is liable for the offence of culpable Homicide in IPC.
Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder
To establish culpable Homicide in IPC not amounting to murder, the Indian Penal Code’s Section 299 defines three crucial elements that need to be proven:
- The intention of causing death.
- The intention of causing bodily injury that is likely to cause death.
- The knowledge that the act is likely to cause death.
Culpable Homicide amounting to Murder
On the other hand, for culpable Homicide amounting to murder, Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code outlines four essential elements that need to be established:
- The intention of causing death.
- The intention of causing bodily injury to the person, and the offender knows that such injury is likely to cause the person’s death.
- The bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient, in the ordinary course of nature, to cause death.
The person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it will probably cause death or such bodily injury that is likely to cause death, and the act is carried out without any excuse for incurring such a risk.
Landmark Cases on Culpable Homicide in IPC
The Empress v. Ganesh Dooley & Gopi Dooley
In this case, a snake charmer exhibited a venomous snake in public without extracting its fangs. He placed the snake on the head of a spectator, not intending to harm anyone but to demonstrate his skill. The spectator, trying to push off the snake, was bitten and died as a result. The snake charmer was found guilty of culpable Homicide in IPC, not amounting to murder, because even gross negligence can amount to knowledge.
Palani Goudan v. Emperor
In this case, a husband struck a violent blow on his wife’s head with a ploughshare, and she became unconscious. Believing she had died, he hanged her to conceal his crime. However, she died due to hanging, not the blow. The court held that the accused could not be convicted of murder or culpable Homicide in IPC, but he was punished for assaulting his wife and attempting to create false evidence by hanging her. The court found no intention of causing death while giving the blow, and her death was due to hanging.
In Re Thavamani case
The facts of this case can be divided into two stages. In the first stage, the accused had the intention to cause death and hit the victim, believing she had died. However, she was merely unconscious. In the second stage, they threw her into a well to conceal evidence, and she died there. The court held the accused liable for murder, stating that the second stage was a continuation of the first stage. From the beginning, the accused had an intention to cause the victim’s death, making them responsible for the murder.
Note: In the Palani Goudan case, the accused did not intend to cause the death of the victim, but in the In Re Thavamani case, the accused had the intention to cause the victim’s death from the beginning. The distinction lies in the accused’s intention and the outcome of their actions in each case.
Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code provides a comprehensive framework for understanding culpable Homicide, a grave offence against the human body. It defines culpable Homicide as causing death through acts done with the intention of causing death or bodily injury likely to lead to death or with the knowledge that such acts are likely to result in death. The key distinguishing factor between culpable Homicide and murder, as stated in Section 300, lies in the degree of intention and knowledge of the offender.
Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder involves the intention to cause death or inflict serious bodily injury, while culpable Homicide amounting to murder goes further, encompassing situations where the offender not only intends to cause bodily harm but also knows that the injury is likely to be fatal. The crucial nuances in these definitions highlight the varying degrees of criminal liability.
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