Culpable Homicide and Murder: Best Explained

CULPABLE HOMICIDE AND MURDER

Author: Ms. Deepsi Rawat, Law College, Dehradun [1]

INTRODUCTION

The term culpable homicide and murder are the two most confusing terms in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. There is a thin line difference between the two terms. Culpable homicide is the genus and murder is the species.[2]” The basic difference between these two offences lies in the gravity with which the offence has been perpetrated. Therefore, in this paper, we, the authors have taken a meticulous analysis for the clear-cut understanding of the two terms “Culpable Homicide” and “Murder.” Whitely Stocks, Previously Law member of the council of the Governor-General of India, in his introduction to the Indian Penal Code in the Anglo Indian Codes, Volume 1, published in 1887, Page 41 comments as follows: “The definitions just referred to are the weakest part of the code, and the law on the subject should be recast so as to express clearly what is or sought to be the intention of the legislature”. But, unfortunately, such a legislative exercise did not take place. It has been left to the courts to bring out and expound the difference between culpable homicide and murder, as defined in the abovesaid sections.[3]

CULPABLE HOMICIDE

The word ‘homicide’ has been derived from the Latin terms homi (man) and cido (Cut)[4] or (kill)[5]. Thus, “homicide” means the killing of a human being by another human.[6] Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code defines culpable homicide 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”.[7] Culpable homicide when exercised under the influence of the general exceptions mentioned under Section 76 to Section 100 of the Indian Penal Code is lawful homicide.

Ingredients of culpable homicides are as follows:

  1. Causing the death of a human being
  2. Death must have been caused by such an act
  3. The act must have been done
  4. With the intention of causing death or
  5. With the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death or
  6. With the knowledge that such an act of the doer is likely to cause the death of the injured.

Sometimes gross negligence amounts to knowledge. Where a person acts in such a way that he is irresponsible towards taking necessary care and caution then it will be presumed that he has knowledge of the consequences of his act. The knowledge must be inferred from the surrounding facts and conduct of the accused. It is to be noted that death must be the consequence of the grossly negligent act to attract Section 299.

MURDER

Murder is the aggravated form of culpable homicide. Murder includes culpable homicide but, culpable homicide does not include murder in all cases. In order for a culpable homicide to amount to murder it should fall under the four clauses mentioned under Section 300 which are as follows:

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-

Secondly-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–

Thirdly-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–

Fourthly-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.”[8]

EXCEPTION TO SECTION 300 INDIAN PENAL CODE

  1. GRAVE AND SUDDEN PROVOCATION

There must be an instance of the grave and sudden provocation in order to take the plea of exception to Section 300. However, it has to be noted that this provocation should not be first initiated at the instance of the accused.

In the case of K.M. Nanavati[9] the following principles were laid down for the determination of grave and sudden provocation:

  1. The test of ‘grave and sudden’ provocation is whether a reasonable man, belonging to the same class of society as the accused, placed in the situation in which the accused was placed would be so provoked as to lose his self-control;
  2. In India, words and gestures may also, under certain circumstances, cause grave and sudden provocation to an accused so as to bring his act with the first exception of Sec.300, I.P.C.
  3. The mental background created by the previous act of the victim may be taken into consideration in ascertaining whether the subsequent act caused grave and sudden provocation for committing the offence.
  4. The fatal blow should be clearly traced to the influence of passion arising from that provocation and not after the passion had cooled down by lapse of time, or otherwise giving room and scope for premeditation and calculation.”[10]
  • SELF DEFENCE

The person claiming this exception must have exceeded his right to private defense of person or property, provided he had exercised this right with bona fide intention.it should be noted that the injury inflicted must be in proportion to the attack of the deceased. “Right of private defense cannot be used to do away with a wrongdoer unless the person concerned has a reasonable cause to fear that otherwise death or grievous hurt might ensue in which case that person would have the full measure of right to private defense.”[11]

In the recent case of Prasad Swanker v. Ranjit Kumar[12], it was a case of Murder wherein the plea of right to private defense was raised. A cross version of dacoity by deceased persons was held to be credible. Recoveries from the place of occurrence, non-explanation of the injuries to the accused, made the cross versions to be found probable. The reversal of the conviction was confirmed.

  • ACT OF PUBLIC SERVANT

The essential ingredients of the exception 3 of Section 300 are as follows:

(i) The offence must be committed by a public servant or by a person aiding a public servant;

(ii) The act alleged must have been committed by the public servant in the discharge of his official duties;

(iii) He should have exceeded the powers given to him by law;

(iv) The act should be done in good faith;

(v) The public servant should have believed that his act was lawful and necessary for the due discharge of his duties;

(vi) He should not have borne any ill-will towards the person whose death was caused

In Subha Naik v. R[13], a constable caused death under orders of a superior, it is found that neither he nor his superiors believed that it was necessary for public security to disperse certain crowd by firing on them, it was held that he was guilty of murder since he was ‘not protected in that he obeyed the orders of his superior officer’

  • WITHOUT PREMEDITATION

To avail the protection of this exception the accused must prove to the court that the fight between the accused and deceased is not one which was preplanned but, broke out suddenly. The Apex court in Surendar Kumar v. Union Territory, Chandigarh[14]summarized the principles as follows,

“To invoke this exception four requirements must be satisfied, namely,

(i) it was a sudden fight;

(ii) there was no premeditation;

(iii) the act was done in a heat of passion; and

(iv) the assailant had not taken any undue advantage or acted in a cruel manner.”[15]

The cause of the quarrel is not relevant nor is it relevant who offered the provocation or started the assault. The number of wounds caused during the occurrence is not a decisive factor but what is important is that the occurrence must have been sudden and unpremeditated and the offender must have acted in a fit of anger. Of course, the offender must not have taken any undue advantage or acted in a cruel manner. Where, on a sudden quarrel, a person in the heat of the moment picks up a weapon which is handy and causes injuries, one of which proves fatal, he would be entitled to the benefit of this Exception provided he has not acted cruelly.[16]

  • CONSENSUAL HOMICIDE

According to Exception 5 of Section 300, culpable homicide is not murder when the person whose death is caused being above the age of 18 years, suffers death or takes the risk of death with his own consent.

The points to be proved are:

1) The death was caused with the consent of the deceased;

2) The deceased was then above 18 years of age;

3) That such consent was free and voluntary and not given through fear

or misconception of facts.

The Apex court in Vijay alias Gyan Chand Jain v. State of MP[17], held as follows,

it may be noted that exception 5 to Section 300 I.P.C. must receive a very strict and not a liberal interpretation and in applying the said exception the act alleged to be consented to or authorized by the victim must be considered with very close scrutiny.”

DISTINCTION BETWEEN SECTION 299 AND SECTION 300

The following distinction is made out between Section 299 and Section 300[18]

SECTION 299 SECTION 300
A person commits culpable homicide if the act by which the death is caused is done – Subject to certain exceptions culpable homicide is murder if the act by which the death is caused is done –
INTENTION (a) with the intention of causing death; or (b) with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death; or (1) with the intention of causing death; or (2) 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 (3) 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
KNOWLEDGE (c) with the knowledge that the act is likely to cause death. (4) with the knowledge that the act is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and without any excuse or incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as is mentioned above.”

CONCLUSION

There is a thin line difference between culpable homicide and murder. Culpable homicide is a gene while murder is the species. Murder includes culpable homicide but, culpable homicide does not include murder in all cases. Culpable homicide is a wider term than murder. To decide whether a particular act falls under the domain of murder or culpable homicide first of all the facts have to be ascertained and then intention and knowledge of the person who caused the death or bodily injury have been ascertained. If the intention or knowledge is higher, then, the case would fall under the ‘murder’ or otherwise, it would fall under the ‘culpable homicide.


[1]B.B.A. LL.B. (Hons.), Law College Dehradun, Uttaranchal University

[2]State of Andra Pradesh v. Rayavarapu Punnaya & Anr, 1977 AIR 45.

[3]Mani alias Subrmaniam v. State by Inspector of Police 1986 LW (cr) 275

[4] P S A Pillai’s Criminal Law, By KI Vibhute, 12th Edi, Second Reprint, 2015, Lexis Nexis Pub. P. 569.

[5] Criminal Law Cases &Materials, K.D.Kaur, 18th Edi, 2015, Lexis Nexis Pub. P.389.

[6] Ganesan Vs. State, Rep by. Inspector of Police, Alangulam Police Station, Virudunagar. D.O.J 16/11/2002.

[7] Section 299, Indian Penal Code, 1860

[8]Section 300, Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[9]K.M.Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra AIR 1962 SC 605

[10]ibid

[11] Arun v. State of Maharashtra (2012) 5 SCC 530

[12] (2015) 16 SCC 411

[13] (1898) 21 Mad. 249

[14](1989) 2 SCC 217

[15]  Surendar Kumar v. Union Territory, Chandigarh(1989) 2 SCC 217

[16]ibid

[17](1994) 6 SCC 308

[18] State of A.P. v. Rayavarappu Punnaya AIR 1977 SC 45

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