When Culpable Homicide Is Amounting To Murder?

Homicide is among the most heinous crimes. Out of various types of homicide, this article mainly deals with culpable homicide amounting to murder, given under section 300 of IPC, its essentials, various case laws and illustrations and has been compared against culpable homicide not amounting to murder, given under section 299 of IPC, which are similar in nature but are treated as completely different crimes in the eyes of law.

INTRODUCTION

The term ‘Homicide’ has its root in the Latin words of Homo meaning Human and Caedere meaning to kill, therefore, it means killing of a human being by another human. Killing of a human being attracts the most severe type of punishment, for instance, the death penalty or rigorous imprisonment for the remaining life, etc., because it the maximum degree of bodily injury that can be inflicted upon a human being.

There lies a slight difference of knowledge and intention between culpable homicide under section 300 and section 299, but that difference holds a significant position for it allows the judiciary to give fair and just judgments.

CULPABLE HOMICIDE

Culpable homicide is categorized as an unlawful homicide. Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for the laws against the crime of culpable homicide. Culpable homicide is further categorized into two sections:

Culpable homicide not amounting to murder- Section 299:

It simply can be referred as culpable homicide. Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code describes it as, “Whosoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as it 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”.

As per the definition given under IPC, the following conditions need to be fulfilled to hold someone liable for the crime:

  • Intention of causing death
  • Intention of inflicting such bodily injuries that may lead to death
  • Knowledge that the inflicted bodily injury might cause death

Illustrations:

1. Let say, X hit Y’s head with a bat, with the intention of causing severe bodily injury that might cause death, unaware of the fact that the Y is suffering from brain hemorrhage and as a result Y dies. X is held liable for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

2. X in order to stop trespassing on his property, digs a pit and cover it using leaves and wooden sticks with the knowledge that any person falling for his trap might incur such bodily injuries that may lead to death. And as anticipated, Y falls in the pit and dies. X is liable for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Punishments:

Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code awards the punishments to the people liable for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. It states that, “whoever causes death with intention or causes such bodily injury as is likely to cause death or with the knowledge that death is likely to be caused because of the act, shall be liable for life imprisonment or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine (Section 304(1) IPC)”.

According to section 304(2), whoever causes death without the intention of causing death or causes such severe injuries unaware that such bodily injuries might cause death, will be awarded with the imprisonment extending to ten years, and will be held liable to pay fine. If someone causes death without the intention of causing death but with the knowledge that inflicted bodily injuries might cause death then the person will be awarded with imprisonment of prescribed term that might extend to ten years and will be liable to pay fine.

Culpable homicide amounting to murder – Section 300:

It simply can be referred as murder. Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code defines murder as, “Culpable homicide is murder, if the act is done with the intention of causing death or if it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause the death of the person or if the inflicted bodily injury is sufficient enough in the ordinary course of nature to cause death or if there is knowledge involved that the act done is so fatal that in all probability it can cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death and commits such act without any excuse.”

As per the IPC, the following conditions needs to be fulfilled for holding someone liable for the crime of murder:

  • Intention of causing death
  • Intention of inflicting such bodily injuries that the offender knows, in most probabilities will cause death of the person to whom such harm is inflicted.
  • Intention of inflicting bodily injuries to any person and the harm caused or injuries inflicted is enough in ordinary coarse of action to cause death of the person.
  • The offender knows that the committed act will in all probability cause death of the person or bodily injury that will lead to death, due to the dangerous nature of the act and commits it without any excuse.

Illustrations:

1. Let’s say, A is fully aware of the fact that B is suffering from brain tumor and by using the information, he hits B repeatedly on his head, causing B’s death. Thereby, A will be held liable for murder.

2. A intentionally and with complete knowledge of the dire consequences, mixes poison to B’s drink. B after consuming the drink collapses and ultimately dies. A will be held liable for the murder of B.

Exceptions:

1. Sudden and grave provocation: When a person loses control over his senses and mind due to certain sudden provocations, which is grave enough to provoke a person to cause death of the person who proved the accused or the death of any other person by accident then the accused will be exempted from the liability of murder and will be charged under culpable homicide. This exception of sudden and grave provocation is given under section 300 of IPC.

2. Private defense: When a person, in order to, protect his or anybody else’s body or property uses force against the offender but exceeds the lawful limit of force that was supposed to be used and cause death, then the accused will be exonerated from the liability of murder and will be charged under culpable homicide.

3. Public servant acting for public justice: If a public servant, while on duty causes death of any person, while acting towards the advancement of public justice, he will not be held liable for murder rather culpable homicide.

4. Sudden fight: when in a sudden fight, accused causes death of the victim in fit of anger ensuing grave and sudden provocation, the accused will be charged only under culpable homicide. The point to be noted is, the fight shouldn’t be preplanned.

5. Death by consent: when a person, above eighteen years of age, consents to his death or voluntarily undertakes the risk of life in the hands of others, then the death caused of the deceased will not hold anyone liable for murder but a culpable homicide. For instance, euthanasia, which is illegal in India.

Punishment:

Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, states the punishments for the crime of murder or culpable homicide amounting to murder (mentioned in section 300). This section provides for the punishments of either life imprisonment or death penalty and fine too.

Death penalty under section 302:

In the case of Buchan Singh v State of Punjab, it was held that the punishment of death penalty should be awarded in rarest of the rare situation. In this case, the court established that when the criminal can be given life imprisonment then why a court needs to go for such an inhumane practice. Indian judiciary in the case of Machhi Singh And Others v. State of Punjab, laid down certain conditions on when the punishment of death penalty could be availed:

  1. When the murder is committed in a way that is extremely revolting, brutal, diabolical and has the tendency to awaken extreme indignation of community.
  2. When the victim is a child, a helpless woman, a public figure, etc.
  3. When the magnitude of death caused is huge, as in, large number of people died.
  4. When the death is caused due to caste and creed.
  5. When the motive of the accused is cruelty and total depravity.

Culpable homicide by causing the death of a person other than the person whose death was intended:

This situation has been discussed in section 301 of IPC. It states that when a person kills some other person by accident whom he didn’t intend to kill or inflict such harm that may cause death therein the intention is not taken into consideration.

For example: let’s say, A mixes poison to the food and keeps the food at a place that is easily accessible with an intent to kill B. Thereafter, he leaves the place for a moment, when a child eats the food that was meant for B, and because of poison, the child died. In this situation, A is held liable for the murder of child and he cannot plead that he didn’t intend to kill or harm the child.

It is also regarded as the principle of transferred intent or transferred knowledge or doctrine of the transfer of malice.

CONCLUSION:

With the help of the article, the researcher tried to explain how the offence of murder differs from culpable homicide not amounting to murder and when does a crime of murder takes place. Now, as mentioned earlier, there’s a very fine line of difference between these two subsets of culpable homicide which are given under different sections of IPC, but defining this crucial difference for providing the most reasonable judgments, so that no person is awarded punishment more or less than the accused deserves. There exists a scope of improvement in the punishment awarded for the crime of murder (section 304) and the punishment of death penalty needs to be relooked upon in this age of human rights.

This article has been written by Devyani Mishra, 1st year, BALLB (Hons.) at NLIU, Bhopal

Also Read – Exceptions To The Offence Of Murder Under Section 300 Of IPC

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