The word ‘homicide’ has been derived from the Latin terms homi (man) and cido (cut). The word ‘homicide’ literal meaning is “the killing of a human being by another human being”.
Homicide is of two types-
(i) Lawful homicide (ii) Unlawful homicide
Lawful homicide is covered under ‘Part IV: ‘of general exceptions’ of the IPC and therefore are not punishable. The homicide that is punishable under the code obviously falls under unlawful homicide.
Chapter XVI of IPC begins with ‘offences affecting life’ and deals with homicide offences. It includes four homicide offences. They are –
(i) Culpable homicide not amounting to murder
(ii) Culpable homicide amounting to murder
(iii) Death by a rash or negligent act, and
(iv) Dowry death.
It also deals with suicide and thugs.
Section – 299 – Culpable homicide
Section 299 of IPC deals with a culpable homicide which says “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”.
(i) Sunita lays sticks and turf over a pit, with the intention of causing death or with the knowledge that death is probably going to be caused. Komal, supposing the ground firm steps on it, falls in and is killed. Sunita has committed the offence of culpable homicide.
(ii) Ramlal knows Shyam to be behind a shrub. Rohit doesn’t have any knowledge of it. Ramlal with the intention to cause or knowing that the act is probably going to cause Shyam’s death, instigates Rohit to fire shrub. Ramlal might be blameworthy of no offence however Rohit has committed an offence of culpable homicide.
(iii) Areeb, with the intention to kill or to take away shots at a fowl, kills Bajila, who was behind a shrub. Here Areeb was submitting an unlawful demonstration yet as Areeb has no intention to kill or knowledge that is probably going to cause death, has submitted no offence under this segment.
Explanation-1 – A person, who causes bodily injury to another who is labouring under a disorder, disease or bodily infirmity, and thereby accelerates the death of another, shall be deemed to have caused his death.
Explanation-2- Where death is caused by bodily injury, the person who causes such bodily injury shall be deemed to have caused the death, although by restoring to proper remedies and skilful treatment the death might have been prevented.
Explanation-3 – The cause of death of a child in the mother’s womb is not homicide. But it may amount to culpable homicide to cause the death of a living child if any part of the child has been brought forth. Though, the child may not have breathed or been completely born.
Section 299 and 300, deals with culpable homicide not amounting to murder and amounting to murder respectively. Former is genus whereas later is species. This is because ‘Every murder is a culpable homicide but every culpable homicide is not murder’. If any culpable homicide falls within any clause of section 300, it will amount to murder but if any homicide falling under any exception of section 300; it will amount to culpable homicide.
(i) death of the person;
(ii) by act of another person;
(iii) The act has been done with:
(a) the intention of causing death;
or (b) the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death,
or (c) with the intention that such act is likely to cause death.
Explanation 1 is to see whether the person who caused the injury cannot escape criminal liability of culpable homicide by stating that if a person injured did not suffer from the said disease or disorder, he would not have died.
Explanation 2 says the fact that an injured person died because he could not avail of proper treatment, cannot be a ground for negating guilt of culpability of the person who inflicted the injury in the first place.
Explanation 3 says if any portion of the child comes out of the mother’s womb, even if it is not fully born, and if death is caused to such child, then it would amount to culpable homicide.
‘Causing death’ : Tests for determining
The first test to choose whether a specific act or omission would be secured by the definition of culpable homicide is to confirm whether the act brought about by the accused has caused his death. The important question for such check is to see whether the death caused as an immediate consequence of an act committed by the accused.
In Moti Singh v state of Uttar Pradesh, the deceased received two gunshot wounds which were dangerous to life. There was no evidence as to whether he had fully recovered or not when discharged from hospital. The Supreme court held that the mere fact that two gunshots injurious were dangerous to life was not sufficient for holding that the deceased’s death was caused due to injuries received by him.
There should be no remote connection between death and cause: Court highlighted.
In Joginder Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh, Rupinder Singh teased the sister of the accused. In counter, the two accused went to Rupinder’s home and begun yelling to take Rupinder’s sister. Two of his cousins mediated, gave him a blow and saw Rupinder Singh running towards the field. Accused chased him. In fear, he jumped into the well and died. The Supreme court held as the charged was 15-20 feet from the deceased and the deceased were having different choices than hopping into the well. So accused can’t be held liable for culpable homicide.
Intention or knowledge
Intention and knowledge are used as alternative ingredients to constitute the offence of culpable homicide. However, intention and knowledge are two other things. The difference between the two was considered by the Supreme Court in Baldev v State of Pepsu, in this case, the accused was drunk and shot a 16-year-old boy in a marriage feast. The accused took the defence that he was so drunk that he had no intention or knowledge to kill the boy for what was a trifling incident. The Supreme Court differentiated between the two as ‘Motive is something which prompts a man to form an intention whereas knowledge is an awareness of the consequences of the act’. It is the mental element of the accused alone, which is material to decide whether a particular act is a culpable homicide amounting to murder or culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The expectation that the act of the person is likely to result in the death of the other person is enough to constitute intention.
Knowledge or Mens rea
The third degree of intention contemplated under the definition of culpable homicide is knowledge. The least or minimum degree of mental element contemplated making an act of homicide culpable knows that the act is likely to cause death. Knowledge means ‘consciousness’.
Act of killing a person not intended to be killed
The first illustration to s299 explains that even if the act of a person is not intended or aimed at any particular person, it would amount to culpable homicide.
In Kashi ram v State of Madhya Pradesh, the accused fired at a particular person in the adversary’s party but it hit another person causing his death. The Supreme Court applied the doctrine of transferred malice to hold him guilty under s304, Pt. II as he neither aimed at nor intended death of the deceased.
Proof of Intention
The intention is something that can be known only from the act done, circumstances, nature of the weapon used and facts of each case. There is no hard and fast rule to lay guideline to know the intention and it changes from case to case.
When injuries are inflicted on vital parts of the body like the abdomen by sharp-edged weapon, it is presumed that accused intended to kill the deceased.
Punishment for culpable homicide
Section 304,” punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder” whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall be liable to fine if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death;
Or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years or with fine, or with both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death, or to cause bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
Section 304 part I, prescribes a sentence of imprisonment for life or imprisonment of either description for a term up to 10 years and fine if the act is done with intention of causing death or causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death. This part corresponds to clause (a) and (b) of sec 299.
Section 304, part II applies to offences where an act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death. This part corresponds to a clause (c) of sec 299.
In Viswanath v State of Uttar Pradesh, the accused has stabbed the accused with a knife, which entered the heart of the deceased while the deceased was attempting to take away by force the wife and sister of the accused. The Supreme Court held the case would fall under s304, part II.
Proposals for reform
Disfavouring the distinction drawn in sec 304 between intentional and unintentional homicide for the purpose of imposing imprisonment for life or for a term up to 10 years, or with the term up to 10 years or with fine or both, respectively, the 5th law commission suggested two proposals (i) the punishment of life imprisonment, as it has never been awarded, be deleted from provision; and (ii) only one maximum punishment (of imprisonment for a term up to 10 years with fine) should be provided for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The field of Culpable Homicide is huge and its practicality is vast. It incorporates all felonious manslaughter not adding up to kill. It is fundamentally a murdering which the executioner neither proposed nor predicted as liable to occur; it is an unintentional, culpable felonious slaughtering. There have been numerous cases in which this field of law has been utilized and effectively applied also. The Sections 299, 301, 304, 304A arrangement with the various perspectives canvassed under this subject in an intricate way all the arrangements are not thorough and there is a need to put into application huge numbers of the recommendation of the Law Commission for better organization of Justice since it would help in the evolvement of this subject with time.
1. The Indian Penal Code,1860 ( Act 45 of 1860), s299
2.AIR 1964 SC 900, (1964) Cr Lj 727 (SC)
3. AIR 1979 SC 1876, (1979) Cr Lj 1406 (SC)
4. AIR 1956 SC 488
5. AIR 2001 SC 2002, (2002) 1 SCC 71
6. AIR 1960 SC 67
7. Law Commission of India, ‘Forty- Second Report; The IPC’, Government of India, 1972, para 16.20.
BY- Puneet Chaudhary
Aligarh Muslim University