This article is authored by Sanskriti Goel , a 1st year law student from Chanderprabhu Jain College of Higher Studies and School of law, GGSIPU. This is an exhaustive article which talks about what culpable homicide is and also discusses in detail the exceptions to section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Chapter 16, the longest chapter in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter ‘IPC’) deals with offences affecting the human body, including culpable homicide (section 299) and murder (section 300).
The word ‘Homicide’ has been derived from the Latin word ‘homo’ which means a man and ‘Cido’ which means to cut or kill. Therefore, homicide means the killing of a human being by a human being. It is to be noted that natural death is not categorised as homicide. Homicide is the comprehensive term used for causing, or accelerating the death of a human being by another human being. It depends upon certain circumstances to determine whether an act of homicide is punishable or not. For instance, killing in self defence or by reason of mistake of fact does not amount to culpable homicide.
Which is the Wider Term Culpable Homicide or Murder?
Culpable homicide is a much wider offence than that of murder, as all acts of culpable homicide are not acts of murder, but all acts of murder are acts of culpable homicide. Section 299 of IPC deals with culpable homicide which does not amount to murder, whereas section 300 defines culpable homicide which amounts to murder.
In the case of Nara Singh Challan v. State of Orissa (1997 CriLJ 2204), it was held that Section 299 of IPC is the genus and Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code is the species.
Culpable Homicide [Not Amounting to Murder]
Section 299 reads as under:
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.
For instance; A , not knowing that B recently had a brain operation, hits him hard on his head with a wooden bat. B dies because of rupturing of his head. Here A has committed the offence of culpable homicide.
Following are the essential ingredients of section 299:
- Causation of death of human being
- By doing an act
- The act must have been done with the:
- intention of causing death; or
- intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death; or
- Knowledge that the doer is likely by such act to cause death.
Section 304 prescribes punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. This section indicates that the offence has been classified based on the gravity of the crime to punish the accused. Where the intention is to cause death or cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, then the accused shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for 10 years and fine. On the other hand, if the act is done with the knowledge that such act is likely to cause death and there is no intention to cause death, then the accused shall be punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years or with fine or with both.
In Harjinder Singh v. Delhi Administration (AIR 1968 SC 867), the accused was trying to assault one person and the deceased intervened. When the accused found himself against two persons, he took out a knife and stabbed the deceased in his left thigh. The blood vessels of the body were cut which resulted in great loss of blood and led to immediate death. The accused was convicted under Section 304 IPC, Part I. It was taken into notice that the offence is culpable homicide if the bodily injury intentionally inflicted, is likely to cause death.
Murder is an aggravated form of culpable homicide. The causation of death and criminal intention or knowledge are common constituents of both murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. In comparison to culpable homicide, there exists greater intention or knowledge in murder.
Section 300 reads as under:
Except in the cases hereinafter excepted, culpable homicide is murder, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or—
Secondly.—If it is done with 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, or-
Thirdly.—If it is done 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, or-
Fourthly.—If 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.
For instance; A , knowing that B recently had a brain operation, intending to cause, or knowing it to be so dangerous that it must, in all probability cause B’s death, hits him hard on his head with a wooden bat. B dies because of rupturing of his head.
It must be taken into account that Section 300 defines murder with reference to culpable homicide stated in Section 299. So, in simpler words, if the acts of the accused first lies within the definition of culpable homicide and then comes within any of the 4 clauses as outlined in Section 300, this act of homicide will amount to murder.
The essential ingredients of murder are as follows:
Culpable homicide is murder, if it is done with:
- the intention of causing death; or
- the intention to cause bodily injury, knowing that the injury caused is likely to cause death; or
- the intention to cause bodily injury which is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death; or
- the person doing the act must have knowledge:
- that the act is so imminently dangerous that in all probability it will cause death or bodily injury likely to cause death; and
- that such act is without any legal justification.
In Chahat Khan v. State of Haryana (AIR 1972 SC 2574) , the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that since intention is always a state of mind, it can be proved only by acts. Thus when injuries are inflicted on vital parts of the body with sharp-edged weapons, then the intention to kill can be attributed to the accused.
Section 302 prescribes punishment for murder. It states that whoever commits murder shall be punished with death (only in the rarest of the rare cases) or imprisonment for life and fine.
Exceptions to Section 300
Section 300 lays down five exceptions which mitigate the offence of murder into culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The exceptions are legitimized on the grounds that in such cases the deceased is equally responsible for his death. Accordingly, the criminal liability of the accused is alleviated from murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder punishable in Section 304. However, the exceptions mentioned in Section 300 are only partial defences. These defences partially reduce the criminal liability of the accused and do not absolve him completely. On the other hand, General Exceptions specified in Chapter 4 of the IPC absolve the accused of any charges completely.
Exception 1: Grave and Sudden Provocation
- There must be provocation to the accused.
- The provocation must be both grave and sudden. If the provocation is sudden but not grave, or vice versa, then the offender cannot avail of the benefit of this exception. For example; merely slapping on the cheek may cause sudden provocation but the same is not grave.
- The provocation must deprive any reasonable man of his power of self control over himself.
- The act of killing must be done under the immediate impulse of provocation.
- Provocation must be proved and not presumed.
Illustration: Y gives grave and sudden provocation to A. A, on this provocation, fires a pistol at Y, neither intending nor knowing himself to be likely to kill Z, who is near him, but out of sight. A kills Z. Here A has not committed murder, but merely culpable homicide.
Exception 2: Exceeding Right of Private Defence
- The act must be done in exercise of the right of private defence of person or property.
- The act must have been done in good faith.
- The doer must have exceeded his right given to him by law and have thereby caused the death.
- The act must have been done without premeditation.
- The act must have been done without any intention of causing more harm than was necessary for self-defence.
Illustration: Z attempts to horsewhip A, not in such a manner as to cause grievous hurt to A. A draws out a pistol. Z persists in the assault. A believing in good faith that he can by no other means prevent himself from being horsewhipped, shoots Z dead. A has not committed murder, but only culpable homicide.
Exception 3: Act of Public Servants
- The person accused of murder must be a public servant or one who is aiding such servant when the letter is acting for the advancement of public justice.
- An act must have been committed by a public servant in the discharge of his lawful duties.
- The doer exceeds the power given to him by law.
- The act must have been done in good faith.
- The act must have been done without any ill-will or malice towards the person whose death is caused.
Exception 4: Death caused in Sudden Fight
- The fight must have been with the person killed.
- Sudden fight must be without any premeditation.
- The act must have been committed in a heat of passion.
- The offender must not have taken undue advantage or must not have acted in a cruel or unusual manner.
Exception 5: Death caused with Victim’s Consent
- Person move death is caused must have consented to the causing of his death or the taking of the risk of death; and
- The person consenting must be above the age of 18 years.
Illustration: A, by the instigation, voluntarily causes, Z, a person under eighteen years of age to commit suicide. Here, on account of Z`s youth, he was incapable of giving consent to his own death; A has therefore abetted murder.
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