Author: Chetna Verma
College: Five Year Law College Rajasthan University
Homicide is a term which originates from the Latin term ‘Homo’ means human and ‘caedere’ means killing. The act of homicide is an act that has been a part of human life since day 1. Early men used to kill each other for food or creating dominance, the kings used to perform homicide to win territories and now people kill each other in the sway of jealousy, greed, etc.
Homicide is one of the most grievous act a person can commit as it is the highest order of bodily injury inflicted on a human being hence that’s why regulations regarding Homicide are really grave, for instance, culprits are usually sentenced to life imprisonment or the death penalty as these are the most extreme punishments given by the judiciary.
In India homicide is divided into two forms- Culpable Homicide (Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code) and Culpable Homicide amounting to murder (Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code). Both of these have a very minimal difference but these differences prove to be very crucial for the legal system as the delivery of a fair judgment is dependent on these differences.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the third type of Unlawful Homicide, ‘Culpable Homicide’. What is culpable homicide, what are the ingredients, difference between culpable homicide and murder, punishment regarding it and certain landmark cases to prove our contentions?
Lawful and Unlawful Homicide
A culprit in a case of Homicide cannot always be culpable. This derives the notion of lawful homicide where the accused had a valid reason to commit the crime. In these cases, the person will not tend to be tried by the law and can also be exempted from the charges.
These can include death caused in self-defence or by mistake of fact or there was a bonafide execution of the law etc. Hence Homicide can be lawful as well as unlawful. Lawful Homicide may include justifiable and excusable homicide. Unlawful Homicide may include death by rash and negligent act (Sec 304-A), suicide (Sec 309) or culpable homicide.
As mentioned before culpable homicide is a type of unlawful homicide. Laws regarding culpable homicide are enshrined in the Indian Penal Code 1862 (IPC). According to which, there are two types of culpable homicides-
Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder (Section 299 IPC)
It can be simply referred to as culpable homicide, this comes under the purview of Sectionn299 of The Indian Penal Code 1862 which states that:
An act done with the intention of causing death or causing such bodily injury which is likely to cause death or having the knowledge that he can likely by his act cause death, he’ll be committing the offense of culpable homicide.
After bifurcating the definition, we get 3 conditions which have to be fulfilled to attract Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code these are-
· The intention of causing death.
· The intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
· With the knowledge that he is likely by such an act to cause death.
It was held in the case of Nara Singh Challan v. State of Orissa (1997) that Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code is the genus and Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code is the species. Hence, there are no independent sections regarding culpable homicide not amounting to murder it is the part of Section 300 of IPC which defines Murder.
Herein, the court observed that:
“For deciding the proper punishment which is proportionate to the current offense, IPC has divided culpable homicide into three degrees. First is the gravest form which is Murder it is defined under section 300 of IPC, the second is the culpable homicide of the second degree which is punishable under Section 304 part 1 of IPC and Third is the lowest degree of culpable homicide which is punishable under Section 304 part 2 of IPC.”
Culpable Homicide amounting to Murder
It can be simply referred to as Murder, this comes under the purview of Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code 1862 which states that:
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.
After bifurcating the definition, we get 4 conditions which have to be fulfilled to attract Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code these are-
· The intention of causing death.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
Major differences between culpable homicide and murder
“All murders are culpable homicide but not all culpable homicides are murders” this is a very common phrase used to establish a difference between culpable homicide and murder. It talks about the point which I’ve already proved before that culpable homicide is the genus and murder is the species. The major difference between them is that murder is a more aggravated form of culpable homicide. In murder there is no presence of ambiguity that the act may or may not kill as it is present in culpable homicide, looking at Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code where there is clearly mentioned that:
“Act done with the intention of causing death or causing such bodily injury which is LIKELY to cause death or having the knowledge that he can LIKELY by his act can cause death, he’ll be committing the offense of culpable homicide”.
If you notice the multiple occurrences of the term “LIKELY” showcases that there is an element of ambiguity that the act of the accused may or may not kill the person, is present. Whereas, in the case of murder which is defined under Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code there is no such mention of words as “likely” which shows that there is no chance of ambiguity left on behalf of the accused, the accused is for sure that his act will defiantly cause death.
As mentioned by Sir James Stephen, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between Culpable Homicide and Murder as the end result of both is death. But there is a presence of difference though little it all boils up to a very subtle distinction of intention and knowledge involved in both the crimes. The actual difference lies in the degree of the act there is a very wide difference of degree of intention and knowledge among both the crimes.
Most Intriguing Judgments Regarding Culpable Homicide
Some land-mark judgments regarding culpable homicide are, as follows:
Bhagwan Singh v. State of Uttarakhand
The decision regarding this case was given recently but the case dates back to 2007. Herein, 5 people were hurt and 2 of them succumbed to their injuries because of celebratory gunfire. The furious bench of the Supreme Court consisting C.J.I S.A. Bobde, BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ said:
There is a rise in the incidents because of celebratory firing as they are seen as a status symbol. A licensed gun that is to be used for protection should not be used in celebratory events as it can turn to be very fatal.
According to the evidence collected the accused held the gun towards the roof of the house unfortunately the bullets got deflected and injured. The accused pleaded not guilty as he had no intention to cause anyone’s death. The court noticed that the accused was carrying a loaded gun in public and he did not take proper care of his surroundings. He must’ve had an idea that the pellets could deflect and hurt someone.
The court held him guilty. The offense amounted to culpable homicide under Section 299 of IPC, punishable under Section 304 Part 2 of the IPC.
Ram Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh
In this case, the appellant falls so madly in love with his sister-in-law that one day before her marriage he called her in a field and hit her head with an axe. The girl went running towards her house and then went to the police office to file an FIR. After that she was taken to the hospital but she died on the way. The court tried to dwell on the legal nature of the FIR as to whether the same was admissible as evidence of dying declaration.
The court relied on Dharam Pal v. State of U.P. observed that an FIR can be considered as a dying declaration if the victim dies before appearing in front of the court.
The appellant, in this case, was punished by the District Court under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (punishment for murder) but the accused filed a criminal appeal in the High Court against the judgment of the District Court, herein the court, after looking at the post mortem report which showed that if the girl would’ve reached the hospital early she could have been saved, he altered the conviction of the appellant and sentenced him under section 304 part I Indian Penal Code(Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder).