This case analysis is written by Tulip Das, currently pursuing BBA L.L.B(H) from Amity University Kolkata.
42 Cri. L.J. 146
AIR 1940 All. 486
Sections 299, 300, 302, 304 and 309 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Section 307 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
Mt. Dhirajia, a young married woman, lived in a village with her husband Jhagga and their six months old baby daughter.
The husband did not treat the wife well and threatened to beat her. There were frequent quarrels between the two.
He also objected to his wife visiting her parent’s house in Bhagatua and then later that night, Jhagga woke up and found his wife and the baby missing. He went out in pursuit of them and when he reached a point close to the railway line, he saw her making her way along the path.
When she heard him coming after her, she turned round in a panic, ran a little distance with the baby girl in her arms and then either jumped or fell into an open well which was at some little distance from the path.
The little child died while the woman was eventually rescued and suffered little or no injury.
Mt. Dhirajia was charged with the murder of her baby and with an attempt to commit suicide herself by the Sessions judge.
The case began when a mother jumped inside well with her six-months old baby girl, in panic, when she heard her husband calling her from behind, as she was leaving his house. The couple did not share a good relationship and the husband would even threaten to beat the wife. Although the wife was saved, the baby had died. The wife was held with the charges of attempt of suicide and murder of the child. The result of the trial for attempted suicide by the jury was that she was found not guilty. The learned Judge was unable to agree with the verdict of not guilty upon the charge of attempted suicide and he has therefore referred the case to the Allahabad High Court under Section 307 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 with the recommendation that the jury’s verdict should be set aside and that the appellant should be convicted under Section 309, I.P.C., as well as under Section 302. In this way, the Allahabad High Court had before them the appellant’s own appeal against her conviction and the learned Sessions Judge’s reference recommending the Allahabad High Court to set aside the verdict of the jury and to substitute a conviction upon the charge of attempted suicide as well.
Whether her act of jumping inside the pool was an attempt to commit suicide?
Whether she will be convicted of the murder of her own child?
Whether while doing the act she had the “knowledge” that she was likely to cause death?
Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Section 299. Culpable Homicide – 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.
Section 300. Murder – 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Section 302. Punishment for murder – Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
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 ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death;
Or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten 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 such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
Section 309. Attempt to commit suicide – Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both.
Criminal Procedure Code, 1973
Section 307. Power to direct tender of pardon – At any time after commitment of a case but before judgment is passed, the Court to which the commitment is made may, with a view to obtaining at the trial the evidence of any person supposed to have been directly or indirectly concerned in, or privy to, any such offence, tender a pardon on the same condition to such person.
The Allahabad High Court is of the opinion that Mt. Dhirajia had no intentions to kill the child and her act was a result of the panic that she was in. However, the charge of attempted suicide on Mt. Dhirajia was rightly acquitted. In this case, her actions were an act of committing suicide. So, she was rightly acquitted under Section 309 of the IPC. The Allahabad High Court was unable to accept the judgement given by the Sessions Judge and the verdict of not guilty passed by the jury stood firm thereby substituting the convictions under Section 302 for that under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code.
It is obvious from the facts that this is not a case deserving severe punishment. It was also rightly pointed out that the woman did not know that such an act of hers would lead to the death of her child. The unfortunate woman had already been in prison for eight months and the Allahabad High Court deemed that the proper verdict would be that she should be sentenced to undergo six months’ rigorous imprisonment which, in effect, means that she will be released at once unless she is proven guilty of some other charges.
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