Author : Ayush Kumar Jain, Presidency University, Bangalore.
Culpable Homicide is defined in Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. It consist of both physical and mental element, where an act is committed which is done with the intention of causing death or with such knowledge that the act which he or she is going to undertake is going to kill someone or causes such bodily or physical injury which will lead to a person death.
Y is diagnosed with terminal illness and needs certain drugs to live from day to day. X confines him in a room and denies him his medication as a result as a result of which Y dies. X is guilty of culpable homicide.
Ganda mows over a pedestrian deliberately. The pedestrian bleeds on the road and no one helps him and he dies as a result of Ganda’s actions. Ganda cannot take the excuse that if the pedestrian had taken medical treatment at the right time, the pedestrian would have lived and there would be no culpable homicide.
Section 299 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 says about 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.
Culpable homicide can happen by commission or by omission that is by an overt or conscious act or failure to act by which a person is deprived of his or her life.
Ingredients of Culpable Homicide
The act should be of such a nature that it would put to peril someone’s life or damage someone’s life to such an extent that the person would die. In most cases the act would involve a high degree of violence against the person. Instances such stabbing a person in vital organs shooting someone at point blank range administering poison would include instances which would constitute culpable homicide. The section says causing death by doing an act, so given the special circumstances certain acts which may not involve extreme degree of violence but may be sufficient to cause someone’s death. For example starving someone may not require violence in the normal usage of the term, but may cause a person’s death.
The act committed with the Intention of causing death. Thus where you push someone for a joke and the person falls on his head has a brain injury and dies, there was no intention of causing death but when you pushed the person deliberately with the idea that the person falls and dies, in that case the act is with the intention of causing death.
To prove intention in acts where there is bodily injury is likely to cause death. The act has to be can be of two types
- Firstly, where bodily injury itself is done in a fashion which cause death. For example bludgeoning someone on the head repeatedly with a blunt instrument.
- Secondly, in situation where there are injuries and there are investigating events between the injuries and the death provided the delay is not so blatant, one needs to prove that injuries were administered with the intention of causing death.
Knowledge is different from intention to the extent that where a person may not have the intention to commit an act which kills, he knows that the act which he commits will take someone’s life or is likely to take someone’s life will be considered having the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death.
A doctor uses an infected syringe knowingly on a patient thereby infecting him with a terminal disease. The act by itself will not cause death, but the doctor has knowledge that his actions will lead to someone’s death.
Culpable Homicide amounting to Murder
Section 300 deals with Culpable Homicide amounting to murder. In others words the section states that culpable homicide is murder in certain situations. This makes us come to two conclusions namely,
- For an act to be classified as murder it must first meet all the conditions of culpable homicide.
- All acts of murder are culpable homicide, but all acts of culpable homicides are not murder.
Culpable homicide is murder in four situations
When an act is done with the intention of causing death
The degree of intention required is very high for murder. There must be intention present and the intention must be to cause the death of the person, not only harm or grievous hurt without the intention to cause death. Instances would include:-
- Shooting someone at point blank range
- Stabbing someone in the hurt
- Hanging someone by the neck till he dies
- Strapping a bomb on someone
- Administering poison to someone
Inflicting of bodily injury which the offender knows is likely to cause death
The second situation covers instances where the offender has special knowledge about the victim’s condition and causes harm in such a manner which causes death of the person. It states that the offender knows likely to be the cause of death.
Bodily injury which causes death in the ordinary course of nature
These situations cover such acts where there is bodily injury which in ordinary sequence of events leads to the death of the person. The section actually has two conditions:
- The bodily injury inflicted is inflicted with the intention of causing death of the person on whom it is inflicted
- Secondly, the bodily injury caused in the ordinary course of events leads to death of someone.
Commission of an imminently dangerous act without any legitimate reason which would cause death or bodily injury which would cause death.
This head covers the commission of those acts which are so imminently dangerous which when committed would cause death or bodily injury which would result in death of a person and that such an act is done without any lawful excuse.
- Commission of an inherently dangerous act
- The knowledge that the act in all probability will cause death or bodily injury which will cause death and
- The act is done without any excuse
Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder
When not murder culpable homicide is a crime by itself. As stated above a situation must first become culpable homicide before it becomes murder.
Acts under grave and sudden provocation
When a person losses self-control on account of certain situation and causes the death of some person. The provocation must be grave, it must be sudden that is there must be no scope for pre meditation and thirdly, it must not be self-invited so as to use it as an excuse to deprive a person of his/ her life.
When private Defense is exceeded in good faith
In exercising private defense either with respect to property or person, if person accidently exceeds his or her right in good faith or in wrong judgment and the act causes the death of a person, the act is culpable homicide and not murder.
Exceeding the Ambit of discharging public duties
When an officer or public servant exceeds his or her mandate of duties or authority given to him or an officer or public servant assisting him exceeds the same, it is considered culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
When death is caused in sudden fight or heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel
When death is caused of a person above eighteen years of age who voluntarily took the risk of death.
When death is caused in a situation where a person has by his own consent put himself to risk the same would be culpable homicide and not murder.