This article has been authored by Manshi Sinha, a second year student at VIPS.
The Chapter relating to the Offenses Affecting the Human Body, starting from Section 299 to Section 377, is the largest chapter under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). The provisions discussed under this chapter cover a wide spectrum of offenses that can be committed against human life. The two essential ingredients of crime are mens rea and actus reus. Mens rea is guilty mind i.e., intention of committing a crime, while actus reus refers to the guilty act, which is a necessity in order to prove that a criminal act was committed. Guilty act can either be commission of an unlawful act, or omission of an act that a person was legally bound to do.
This article talks about the two most important topics of the IPC, culpable homicide and murder, both of which are mentioned under Section 299 and Section 300 respectively.
“Homicide” refers to killing of a human being by a human being. It is the highest degree of bodily injury that can be inflicted on a human body. However, it is not always necessary that a person committing homicide would be held liable. The answer to the question whether a person is liable or not depends on the circumstances under which an offence has been committed, the type of offence and various other factors. For instance, killing a person in exercise of one’s right to private defence, Section 100, IPC; or by reason of mistake of fact, Section 76, IPC; or in pursuance of a lawful authority Section 78 IPC, etc., is not culpable. Depending on these factors homicide can be lawful or unlawful, the former is not punishable while the latter is.
“Culpable Homicide is the genus of which murder is species”. It is pertinent to mention here that murder is considered as the aggravated form of culpable homicide. The distinction between the two can be drawn on the basis of degree of intention.
Culpable Homicide is defined under Section 299 of the IPC as “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.”
Culpable Homicide is one of the kinds of unlawful homicide and it explains as to when an act of causing death of a person constitutes culpable homicide. The important ingredients that must be present in order to constitute the offence of Culpable Homicide are as follows :
a. Causing Death: To attract the provisions of this section, death must be caused.
b. Doing of an Act: The act, as explained under Section 32, IPC, is given a wider scope. It not only includes commission of an unlawful act, but also illegal omission of an act, thereby causing death of a person.
c. Intention of causing death.
d. Intention of causing a bodily injury that is likely to cause death.
e. The knowledge that such act is likely to cause death.
When the above conditions are fulfilled, then the act committed by the person is called Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder and comes within the purview of Section 299 of the IPC. The punishment for culpable Homicide is given under Section 304 of the IPC.
In the case of Nara Singh Challan v. State of Orissa , the court observed that:
“For deciding the proper punishment which is proportionate to the current offense, IPC has divided culpable homicide into three degrees. First is the gravest form which Murder and is defined under Section 300 of IPC, the second is the culpable homicide of the second degree which is punishable under Section 304 part 1 of IPC and third is the lowest degree of culpable homicide punishable under Section 304 part 2 of IPC.”
Hence, the punishment for the offense of culpable homicide depends on the degree of intention and seriousness to commit the offence. Section 301 of the IPC lays down the Doctrine of Transferred Malice. It states that if a person had an intention of killing someone but accidentally, without any intention, kills another person, then the liability on him would be same as it would have been if he had caused death of the person whom he intended to. This doctrine was used by the Court in the case of Shankarlal Kacchrabhi and Others v. State of Gujrat while applying Section 301.
Culpable Homicide amounting to Murder
Culpable Homicide amounting to murder which is simply known as murder and comes under the purview of Section 300 of IPC, which states that: Culpable homicide is murder if it is caused with:
a. The intention of causing death, or
b. The intention of causing such bodily injury, which the offender knows is likely to cause death.
c. The intention of causing bodily injury, which is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
d. The person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it would in all probability cause death, or such bodily injury which is likely to cause death, and commits the act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such bodily injury likely to cause death.
Section 300 of the IPC states when culpable homicide will amount to murder. Whereas the exceptions to the same section discusses when culpable homicide would not amount to murder. If the act by which the death is committed falls under any of the above mentioned conditions and is not present in any of the exceptions to Section 300, then the act would be called as murder, i.e., the culpable homicide amounting to murder.
Exceptions to Section 300 IPC
There are certain exceptions provided under Section 300 of the IPC, which exempts culpable homicide from being turned into murder. The exceptions are as follows :
a. Culpable Homicide does not amounts to murder when the offender while committing the offence was deprived of self control due to grave and sudden provocation and caused the death of person who gave such provocation, or of any other person accidentally or by mistake. It must be noted that this exception is subject to some conditions; provocation should not be used as excuse for killing or causing harm to someone, provocation must not be of a public servant in lawful exercise of his power, or such provocation is not considered when it is given by anything done in the lawful exercise of right of private defence.
b. If a person exceeded his right to private defence and caused death of the person against whom he was exercising such rights, but had no intention of causing more harm than is necessary for the purpose of his defence.
c. If a public servant causes death by exceeding his lawful exercise of power, which he does in good faith believing himself bound to do so.
d. If the death is caused in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel.
e. If the death of such a person is caused, who is above 18 years of age and himself consented for his death.
In the case of K.M. Nanavati v. the State of Maharashtra, the court held that “The test to determine whether the action of the accused comes within the ambit of provocation or not is to examine whether any reasonable man having the same capacity and belonging to the same class or section of society if placed in the same situation as accused would also be provoked as to lose his/her self control.” The court further observed that the action resulting from sudden and grave provocation should be immediately when the person was provoked but not after the time which was sufficient for one to calm down.
Punishment for culpable homicide amounting to murder is given under Section 302 of the IPC, which states “whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
The offence of culpable homicide and murder are analogous to each other and it is very difficult to understand the distinction between the two. However, by reading the provisions, it can be analyzed that murder is nothing but the aggravated form of culpable homicide and is graver due to the higher probability of death in the case of murder. Further, murder has not been defined in IPC, what is mentioned in Section 300 of IPC is the condition when culpable homicide would amount to murder. Hence, murder is just a form of Culpable Homicide. Section 300 of IPC discusses the circumstances under which a culpable homicide would amount to murder and the exceptions to the same sections lays down certain conditions, when the culpable homicide would not amount to murder.