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Culpable Homicide – IPC (Essentials, Case Laws)

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Culpable Homicide IPC Kanooniyat

I. INTRODUCTION

Origin of the word – The word homicide has been derived from the latin word “homo” which means a man, and “caedere” which means to cut or kill. Therefore, homicide is the killing of a human being by a human being. As held in Rampal Singh v. State of UP Culpable Homicide is the genus and murder is its specie. 

Types of Homicide – It can be lawful or unlawful. Lawful homicide is also known as simple homicide includes. Lawful homicide can further be divided into excusable homicide and justifiable homicide. The former includes the following cases :-

  1. Section 80 – Where death is caused by accident or misfortune
  2. Section 82, 83, 84, 85 – Where death is caused by a child, or person of unsound mind, or an intoxicated person.
  3. Section 87, 88, 92 – Where death is caused unintentionally in good faith for the benefit of the person killed. 

The above cases have been covered under Chapter IV of IPC  dealing with general exceptions. Justifiable homicide includes 6 cases which are as follows :-

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  1. Section 76 – By a person who is bound or by mistake of fact considers himself to be bound by law. 
  2. Section 77 – By a judge acting judicially under law
  3. Section 78 – By a person acting in pursuance of a judgement of order of a court.
  4. Section 79 – By a person who is justified or by mistake of fact in good faith considers himself to be justified by law. 
  5. Section 81 – By a person who without any criminal intention acts for preventing harm to any person or property.
  6. Section 100, 103 – Where death is caused in exercise of right of private defence of person or property.

Unlawful homicide is of following kinds :-

  1. Section 302 – Murder (Gravest form of culpable homicide)
  2. Section 304 – Culpable homicide not amounting to murder 
  3. Section 304-A- Causing death by negligence
  4. Section 305 & 306 – Suicide

II. ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS OF CULPABLE HOMICIDE

S. 299 defines and explains as to when an act of causing death constitutes Culpable Homicide. The essentials of the same are as follows :-

  1. Causing death of a human being;
  2. Such death must have been caused by doing an act
  3. The act must have been done :-
  • 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 by such act he is likely to cause death.

Illustration – Z is behind a bus. A knows but B doesn’t. A with the intention cause Z’s death induces B to fire at the bush, which he does and kills Z. B may be guilty of no offence; but A will be of CH.

Illustration – A lays sticks & turf over a pit, with the knowledge that death is likely to be caused. Z believing the ground to be firm, walks on it and falls and dies. A is guilty of CH.

III. EXPLANATION OF ESSENTIALS

To have a lucid understanding of culpable homicide, the following shall be mentioned in detail :-

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1. Whoever causes death – It means death of a human being (S. 46) and not of an unborn child. However in view of Explanation III, it will amount to CH to cause death of a living child, who’s any part had been brought forth, though the child may not have breathed or born completely. It is immaterial if the whose death has been caused is not the person whom the accused intended to kill. (S. 301 – Doctrine of Transfer of Malice)

2. By doing an act – Death may be caused by poisoning, striking, drowning and by a hundred different ways. Act here includes illegal omission also. Death may also be caused by effect of words. For instance, A with intention of causing death, gives Z a choice to kill himself or suffer lingering torture. Subsequently, B kills himself. A would be liable for culpable homicide.

3. Intention to cause death – Intention means the expectation of consequence in question. The existence of intention is not to be inferred unless death follows as a natural and probable consequence from the act. For instance, if death is caused by a blow which would otherwise not cause the death of a healthy person because the person whose death has occurred suffered from a disease, in such circumstances, it would not be fair to infer intention or knowledge. 

Case Law :- Basdev v. State

Held :- Intention is to be inferred from the acts of the accused and the circumstances of the case.

4. With the intention of causing such bodily harm as is likely to cause death – It is sufficient is the accused intended to cause such bodily injury which was likely to cause death. The connection b/w the act & the death caused  must be direct and distinct; and though not immediate, it must not be too remote. It is not necessary that the consequences of the injury are foreseen

Case Law :- Kishore Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh

Held : The accused had killed his wife by infliction of multiple injuries including fracture of ribs. Considering the nature and gravity of injuries it was held there was intention  of causing such bodily injuries as was likely to cause death and therefore was held guilty. 

5. With the knowledge that by such act he is likely to cause death – Knowledge is a strong word and imports a certainty. Here knowledge refers to the personal knowledge of the person who does the act. Sometimes even gross negligence may also amount to knowledge. If the persons acts negligently without due care and caution he will be presumed to have knowledge of the consequences arising from his act. 

Case Law :- VK Chauhan v. State of UP

Held : Post-altercation with the victim, accused went to his house in a huff and started firing revolver towards victims house, who received a bullet and died. At that time the victim by chance was bolting the door. It was held that accused is liable to be convicted u/s 299 & not S. 300 as at best the accused can be said to have possessed the knowledge that use of revolver was likely to cause death.  

6. Death caused without intention & knowledge – The offence of culpable homicide presupposes an intention or knowledge of likelihood of causing death. If there is absence of such intention or knowledge, the offence committed may be grievous hurt or simple hurt. 

Case Law :- Abrahim Sheikh v. State of WB

Held :- Once it is established that the act was a deliberate act and was not the result of accident or rashness or negligence, then the offence would be that of culpable homicide. 

Note :- Intention & knowledge, both of them commonly go together but they are two different things. There may be intention without knowledge and vice versa. Knowledge is an awareness of the consequences of the act. Intention is a conscious state of mind in which mental faculties are converted into actions with the purpose of achieving a specific end which human mind conceives before itself. 

IV. EXPLANATIONS TO SECTION

Explanation 1 – provides that if a person causes bodily injury to another who is labouring under bodily infirmity and thereby accelerates the death of that person will be deemed to have caused his death. However, one the elements under S. 299 must be present. 

Explanation II – provides that a plea, that death could have been prevented by resorting to proper remedies or skilful treatment cannot be raised because it may not always be within the reach of a wounded man. 

Explanation III – As Explained Above. 

V. PRACTICE

  1. Nature of proof – It is for the prosecution to establish the guilt of the accused. But intention and knowledge both are internal and invisible acts of the mind and cannot be demonstrated in an objective manner. 
  2. Burden of Proof – Lies on prosecution beyond any reasonable doubt. 

VI. INTENTION, HOW TO BE DEDUCED

  • Intention is a question of fact which is to be gathered from the acts of the parties.
  • Intention is regarded as the natural result of a man’s act and not to the condition of his mind.
  • Nature of intention may be gathered from the following circumstances:
  1. Kind of weapon;
  2. Part of the body;
  3. Amount of force;
  4. Conduct post death; etc.
  • If the act is not accidental or unintentional, the presumption is that the accused had the intention to cause such death or bodily injury.
  • Premeditation is not an essential to prove the presence criminal intention.

VII. SECTION 304 – PUNISHMENT FOR CULPABLE HOMICIDE NOT AMOUNTING TO MURDER

  • S.304 provides for the punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
  • However, the punishment is different for committing culpable homicide committed with  intention from that which is committed with knowledge.

Two parts of S.304

  • S.304 Part I provides for punishment for causing culpable homicide with the intention of causing death or such bodily injury as is sufficient to cause death.
  • S.304 Part II provides the punishment for causing culpable homicide by having a knowledge that such injury is likely to cause death.

Applicability of S.299 vis-a-vis S.304

  • If an offence is covered by clause (i) & (ii) of S.299 the same will be punished u/s. 304 Part I.
  • If an offence is covered by clause (iii) of S.299 the same will be punished u/s. 304 Part II.

Punishment

S.304 Part I

  • Imprisonment for life; or
  • Imprisonment up to 10 years; and
  • Fine

S.304 Part II

  • Imprisonment up to 10 years; and
  • Fine.

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