Culpable Homicide and Murder

All murders are culpable homicide but all culpable homicides are not murder. Culpable homicide is the genus and murder is the specie. The real difference between both of them is only the difference in the degree of intention or knowledge. If the degree of intention and knowledge is greater, the case will fall under murder and on the other side if the degree of intention and knowledge is less, the same will fall under the category of culpable homicide.

A practical approach to distinguish murder or culpable homicide is to be made by the following facts:

(1) The first stage is to establish whether the death was caused due to the act of the accused. This is a first question that should be analysed before any further enquiry into intention and knowledge.

(2) The next step is to check whether the act of the accused would amount to culpable homicide. In means, it has to be ascertained that a particular act, is not a result of an accident or any other exception given under the IPC.  

(3) Once it is established that death is done by accused, with the intention of causing death or with the intention of causing bodily injury that is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that his act is likely to cause death, then the next stage of enquiry is to ascertain whether the acting world falls under any of the four clauses of section 300, IPC.

(4)  If it is established that culpable homicide is murder and the act falls under any of the four clauses of section 300, then there must be a further enquiry to consider whether the act falls within any of the five exceptions provided under section 300, IPC. If it does not fall under any of the exceptions, then the act is murder. If the act, however, falls under any of the exceptions then it will be culpable homicide not amounting to murder[1].”

These stages are merely in the form of broad guidelines and not cast-iron imperative. But sometimes facts of the case at hand may be so intertwined making it difficult or inconvenient for the court to segregate them with precision in these stages and treat them accordingly.

The legislature, in its wisdom, has covered the entire gamut of culpable homicide “amounting to murder” as well as that “not amounting to murder”[2].

 Nevertheless, these two forms of homicide are distinct from each other. The distinction between culpable homicide not amounting to murder and murder, as very aptly and ably articulated by Melville J [3] and repeatedly quoted with approval by the Supreme Court[4], may be outlined.

A brief comparison of Sections 299 and 300 would suffice to prove that culpable homicide is the genus and murder is specie. 

Intention to cause death CI. (1) of Section 299 and CI. (1) of Section 300

The first clause of Section 300 enacts that culpable homicide is the murder if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death. This clause thus reproduces the first clause of Section 299. The intention is the main ingredient of murder. An intention to kill a person brings the matter so, clearly within the general principle of mens rea as to cause no difficulty. 

The presumption of law is that a man suffers the natural consequences of his own acts. It is, therefore, not necessary to take the information into consideration of the accused’s state of mind, at the time of committing the act in question, for the purpose of determining whether he intended to cause death or not. What he intends can only be judged by what he says, and if he says nothing, then his act alone must guide the decision. Where it is proved that the accused fired a gunshot at such a close range that it could not have had other than fatal effect and it is indicative of the intention of the accused that after firings at one person he reloaded the gun and fired the person there a clear indication of his intention to commit murder.

The first clause in Section 299 is added only as a technical matter of the intention to cause death has not been put under section 299, then it would have resulted into something falling under section 300 via CL (1) without falling under section 299 that is to say something would have amounted to the offence of murder without first becoming a culpable homicide. This would have been a violation of the starting words of section 300 and the scheme of the code and also the principle on which they are based.

Intention to cause bodily injury likely to cause death: CI (2) of Section 299 & CI (2) of Section 300

Section 299(2) has the following ingredients: 

  1. a) Intention to cause a particular bodily injury.
  2. b) The bodily injury likely to cause death. 
  3. c) The offender’s knowledge about this likelihood.

Here, the knowledge is to be read with respect to the likelihood of the injury-causing death. Drawing clue from the fact that in every murder culpable homicide is implicit, it can be said that whatever be the requirements for any clause of Section 299, they have to be read as implicit in the corresponding clauses of Section 300, plus something more has to be read in that clause under Section 300. Accordingly, culpable homicide falling under clause (2) of Section 299 may amount to murder under CI (2) of 300, if two more additional requirements are fulfilled, viz.,

  1. i) the offender knows of the likelihood of causing death; &
  2. ii) such a likelihood of causing death is to the person to whom the harm is caused.

Under clause (2) the offender has the knowledge regarding a particular condition or the state of health of the particular victim that internal harm caused to him is likely to be fatal even if it is not so in the ordinary course of nature to be sufficient to cause death.


Intention to cause bodily injury likely to cause death: Clause (2) of Section 299 & clause (3) of Section 300

The difference between clause (2) of Section 299 and clause (3) of Section 300 is the degree of probability of death. It is the degree of probability of death which decides the degree of culpable homicide whether it is of the grave, medium or the lowest. The word “likely’ used in clause (2) of Section 299 emphasizes the sense of ‘probable’ as differ from a mere possibility,

In State v. Rayavarappu Punnayya[5], it was stated that “the destination is fine but real, and if overlooked may result in the miscarriage of justice”. The words, “bodily injury sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death” mean that death will be the most probable result of the injury. So, this sufficiency is to be observed objectively and not subjectively. 

It is important to note that in the comparison between Cl (2) of Section 299 and CI (3) of Section 300, the difference does not lie in mens rea. Because the difference lies the degree of

actus reus and under clause (3) of Section 300, objectively it has to be proved that a particular

injury was sufficient, in the ordinary course of nature and not likelihood.

It is also very important to note that in Section 300, CI (3), the knowledge should be regarding only the likelihood of causing death, and not regarding the sufficiency of causing death, because, otherwise, it will amount to an intention to cause death & will fall under Clause (1) of Section 300.

 Intention to cause a bodily injury + known that it is sufficient to cause death = Intention to cause death.

This would not have been the intention of the legislature. The legislature would never want to give the same meaning to two clauses in the same Section and therefore, there has to be a harmonious constitution between CI (1) and CI (3) of Section 300. CI (1) of Section 300 has got a purely subjective test and CI (3) of Section 300 has got subjective and objective tests.

In the case of Rajwant Singh[6] , the Supreme Court stated: “The third clause discards the test of subjective knowledge. It deals with acts done with the intention of consigning bodily injury to a person and the bodily injury to a person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. In this clause, the consequence of the intentionally caused injury must be viewed objectively. If the injury is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary way of nature, the offence is murder doesn’t matter whether the offender intended causing death or not.” 

Knowledge of probability of death: CI. (3) of Section 299 & CI. (4) of Section 300

  1. (3) of Section 299 and CI (4) of Section 300 both require knowledge of the probability of the act causing death. CI. (3) of Section 299 talks about the knowledge of the likelihood of causing death irrespective of the fact whether a bodily injury is caused or not. 

The requirements of CI (3) of Section 299 are –

  1. a) some act or illegal omission by the offender; &
  2. b) knowledge of the offender that he is likely by his act to cause death.

Clause (4) of Section 300, apart from the above two points, the knowledge should require –

  1. i) that the act is imminently dangerous,
  2. ii) that in all probability it will cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and

iii) that the act is done without any excuse for incurring the risk.


As regards Cl. (3) of Section 299 it was observed in Gora Chand Gope[7] case that there are a good number of cases falling within the preview of section 299 where the offender knows that his act or illegal omission is likely to cause death, the death has even occurred. But it would not be covered under section 300 unless the offender knows that it must cause death in all probability or unless the offender thereby causes such bodily injury as is described under clauses 2 and 3 of Section 300.

In Emperor v. Ht. Dhiragia[8] case there was a woman of twenty who was abused by her spouse. There was a fight between them and the spouse had undermined that he would beat her. At night time, evaded the house with a six-year-old baby in her arms. After she had gone some distance she heard someone coming up behind her, and when she turned around and saw her husband. She panicked and jumped into the well and the child died, but the woman survived. It was held by the court that considering her state of mind she could not be held guilty under clause 4 of murder even though she knew her act was so imminently dangerous.


Section 300 deals with murder. It does not define ‘murder’. Section 299 explains “culpable homicide. Section 300 sets out circumstances when culpable homicide amounts to murder and when it does not amount to murder. Hidayatullah J. in Anda Case[9], Said: “Murder is an aggravated form of culpable homicide.”

 The existence of one of the four conditions converts culpable homicide into the murder but the special exceptions provided under section 300 again reduce the offence of murder back to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. An offence cannot amount to murder unless it falls within the definition of culpable homicide. So, the distinction really is as to whether an act is culpable homicide amounting to murder, or culpable homicide not amounting to murder. There is no radical difference between culpable homicide and murder. The main difference between these two lies within the level of degree of intention or knowĺedge that a person possesses while doing a particular act. If the person has a higher degree of knowledge or intention then his case would fall under Section 300 i.e murder and if the person doing the act have a lesser degree of intention or knowledge then its case would fall under the purview of Section 299 i.e culpable homicide.


[1] State of Andhra Pradesh v. Rayavarappu Punnayya, AIR 1977 SC 45.

[2]  Rampal Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR (2012) 8 SCC 289.

[3]  R v. Govinda (1876) ILR 1 Bom 342.

[4] State of Andhra Pradesh v. Rayavarappu Punnayya, AIR 1977 SC 45.

[5] AIR 1977 SC 45.

[6] Rajwant Singh v. State of Kerala, AIR 1966 SC 1874.

[7] The Queen v. Gorachand Gope, (1866) 5 South WR(Cri) 45.

[8] AIR 1940 All 486.

[9] Anda And Others. v. The State of Rajasthan, AIR 1966 SC 148.


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