CULPABLE HOMICIDE & MURDER
Homicide is the act of killing a human being. The distinction between Culpable Homicide and Murder is such that Culpable Homicide is the genus whereas Murder is the species. The relation can be expressed in the following sentence, “all Murder is Culpable Homicide, but all Culpable Homicide is not Murder.”
According to S. 299 of The Penal code, 1860, whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or by causing an intentional bodily injury likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by the act to cause death commits culpable homicide.
Culpable Homicide means the blame for the death of a human being is cast upon the one responsible for the death.
Murder is an aggravated form of Culpable Homicide.
According to S. 300 of The Penal code, 1860 all culpable homicide is murder, except in cases of special exceptions when:
- The act is done with the intention of causing death, or
- The act is done with the intention to cause bodily injury which the offender knows is likely to cause death, or
- The act is done with the intention of causing bodily injury as is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, or
- With the knowledge that the act is so imminently dangerous, it must in all probability cause death, or bodily injury likely to cause death, without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death.
PALANI GOUNDAN CASE
Palani Goundan had an argument with his wife during which he did the following acts:
- Hit her on the head with a stick due to which she fainted. He had no intention to kill her. But he presumed she had died since she became unresponsive. (No Mens rea + No Actus reus)
- After thinking his wife has died (although she had only fainted), Palani, with the purpose of hiding his culpability hung her from the fan to show her eventual death as suicide. (No Mens Rea + Actus Reus)
The decision of the court was that Palani is not liable for Murder. He had never had the intention to kill his wife. Actus reus was there, but mens rea was absent. Therefore as intention to kill was missing, and knowledge of whether she was dead was absent – Palani was acquitted of murder but was convicted for grievous hurt (S. 320/325) and Destruction of Evidence (S. 201).
IN RE THAVAMANI
Two gardeners while working noticed the landlady wearing a gold necklace. They planned to kill her immediately and steal her chain. The incident comprised of two acts:
- Hit woman on the head whereby she fainted (Mens Rea + No Actus Reus)
- Thinking she is dead, they with a purpose of hiding her body threw her in the well, whereby she drowned and eventually died. (No Mens Rea + Actus Reus)
They were convicted of murder because the 1st act supplied the Mens Rea, while the 2nd act supplied the actus reus. Moreover, the two acts were so closely connected that mens rea and actus reus are said to present concomitantly. Thus, they were convicted of murder.
Mushnooru called Appalla, whom he owed some money to his relative’s house. Mushnooru’s intention was to murder the creditor – Appalla by poisoning him. Mushnooru prepared a Halwa with a cocktail of poisonous arsenic and mercury. It was served on the table, but Appalla did not like it after tasting it and threw it away. After a few minutes, the relative’s daughter and daughter’s friend ate the halwa and died. On the other hand, Appalla became very ill but survived.
The court held Mushnooru liable for murder on the basis of S. 301 i.e. transfer of intention even though Mushnooru had no intention to kill the two little girls, however, his intention to kill Appalla was transferred to the girls and he was convicted of murder.
RAWALPENTA VENKALU CASE
Five people wanted to kill Moinuddin, so they set fire to his hut in which he was fast asleep. To make sure that Moinuddin dies, they also carefully bolted the door from outside thus locking him up. Moinuddin’s three employees tried to save him, but the Five people overpowered them and did not let them unbolt the door.
The court convicted the accused as all of them had the common intention to kill the victim as they locked the door from outside and actively prevented people from unbolting it. There were thus convicted of murder.
KAPUR SINGH CASE
Bachan Singh caused a severe injury to Pritam Singh which caused the amputation of his leg. From that day forth, Pritam Singh’s father Kapur Singh held a grudge against Bachan Singh and Bachan’s father – the eventual victim. One day, Kapur Singh saw Bachan’s father and along with his associate who held the victim, inflicted as many as 18 injuries on the arms and legs of the victim with a gandasa (butcher’s knife) with the intention to cause permanent amputation of both his arms and legs. Unfortunately, the victim died.
As there was no intention to kill, Kapur Singh was acquitted of murder under s. 301 clause (1). Kapur Singh was also acquitted of 300 clauses (3) as the bodily injuries were not sufficient to cause death since the accused was very careful about inflicting injuries solely for the purpose of amputation.
Kapur Singh was convicted of Culpable Homicide under s. 299 (b) due to Explanation 2 of S. 299 which provides that when death is caused by bodily injury, the person who causes the bodily injury is deemed to have cause the death within the meaning of this section. Thus, the accused Kapur Singh was punished under S. 304 Part I.
STATE OF KARNATAKA V. VEDANAYAGAM
The accused gave a knife blow on the chest of the victim who died instantly. The accused said he did not intend to kill the victim. However, the Medico Legal Certificate said that the blow was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to bring about the death.
The accused was convicted of murder under section 300 (3) as he intentionally committed a bodily injury + the bodily injury inflicted was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
EMPEROR V. MT. DHIRAJIA
Dhirajia’s husband used to beat her up regularly. The wife wanted to go to her parent’s house for sometime, however the husband would not let her. At night, when the husband woke up, the wife and his 6-month-old baby were not there. He immediately realized that his wife must have gone to her parent’s house. He ran and caught up with his wife. The wife on seeing the fast approaching husband panicked as she was scared of him and jumped into the well with their baby. The baby died, whereas Dhirajia survived.
The court acquitted Dhirajia of murder as under 300 (4), Dhirajia had a justifiable excuse to jump in the well to escape her abusive husband. She was therefore entitled to undertake the risk of jumping in the well to escape from her abusive husband. However, Dhirajia was convicted of culpable homicide under 299 (c) since she had knowledge that she was about to cause the death of her baby and because 299 (c) does not provide for an excuse from liability unlike 300 (4).
SPECIAL EXCEPTIONS TO MURDER
The law is based on the principle of reason. Criminal law holds only reasonable and sane men responsible for their crimes. The law takes a lenient view of spur of the moment murders and punishes them only as culpable homicide. The special exceptions to murder reduce the liability of one responsible for murder to that only of culpable homicide.
According to Exception 1 of S. 300, culpable homicide is not murder when due to the deprivation of the power of self control and under grave and sudden provocation, a person causes death of the person who gives the provocation, or causes the death of any other person by mistake or ccident.
Nanavati was a naval officer who had a wife called Sylvia and 3 children. Nanavati used to be away for 6 months a year on the ship. In his absence, the wife started an affair with a businessman called Prem Ahuja. When nanavati came home, the wife informed him of her love for Prem Ahuja and that she wanted to marry him. Nanavati was very upset but he calmed down and took his wife and children to a movie theatre. On the pretext of some work, he took their leave and went to the cantonment stores and got a revolver + 6 bullets issued in his name. From thereon he went to Prem Ahuja’s house where he abused Prem Ahuja,“ You filthy ****, when I die will you marry my wife and look after my children!”?
To this, Prem replied, “why should I marry everyone I sleep with?”. At this moment Nanavati took out his pistol and shot Prem Ahuja dead. According to the court, Nanavati was not entitled to the benefit of the grave and sudden provocation since he had about 3 hours to cool down his anger therefore it was not sudden anymore as he had regained his composure as evinced by his act of taking his family for a movie.
BABU LAL V. STATE
Babu Lal saw his wife sleeping with her lover. Babulal’s wife promised to never to meet her lover again. On this promise, they changed the city and moved to a new house. One day, when Babu suddenly came home early, he saw that his wife and her lover were having lunch in his new house. Enraged, he murdered both his wife and her paramour.
The accused was given the benefit of special exception 1 to S. 300 as he acted without self control under grave and sudden provocation, which was not voluntarily provoked by him. Thus he was only liable for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Nayem H Ovi
Founder of Law to Justice
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