This case analysis is made by Bhavna Arul, a fourth-year law student from Symbiosis Law School.
Criminal Appeal No. 33 of 1919 and Referred Trial No. 2 of 1919
(Before- J Wallis, S Aiyar, C Trotter)
1919 ILR 547 (Mad)
The accused had an argument with his wife. Enraged during the argument, the accused had hit his wife on the head with a ploughshare. This resulted in the wife falling down unconscious. The mother of the accused who was outside came into check what happened after the shouting the argument had suddenly stopped. When she came in, she saw her son with the ploughshare and the motionless body of the wife lying in the corner of the room. The accused had assumed that he had killed his wife. In the fear of being charged for murder the mother of the accused and accused together tried tampering with the evidence and the crime scene. He hung the body of his wife to make it look like a suicide. Later when the post mortem was conducted on the body of the wife, it showed the wife had survived the blow of the ploughshare and was only unconscious then and she had died due to being hung by the neck.
The case was initially tried in the Coimbatore Sessions court where the accused was held liable for murder. The case was further taken on appeal to the Madras High Court where the current judgement was passed.
Can the accused be held liable for Murder or is this a case of Culpable Homicide?
Section 32, IPC- Common Intention
Section 204, IPC- Definition Clause- Tampering of Evidence
Section 299, IPC- Definition Clause- Culpable Homicide
Section 300, IPC- Definition Clause- Murder
Section 302, IPC- Punishment Clause- Murder
Section 304, IPC- Punishment Clause- Culpable Homicide
Section 322 IPC- Definition Clause- Grievous Hurt
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.
The definitions of both talk about 2 key ingredients- the intention to cause death- mens rea and an act that has caused death- actus reus. The court in this judgement keenly analyzes these two ingredients in its judgement.
The judgement was based on the following points-
- When looking at the definitions of culpable homicide and murder, a key element in both definitions is intention to cause death of person.
- Here Court observed from the facts that the accused did not have the intention of causing death of his wife when he hit her with the ploughshare.
- The reason for the death of victim was due to being hung by the neck. The victim had no intention of causing her death when he hung her as he had presumed she was dead and one cannot kill a dead person once again.
- The court hence held this was not a case of murder or culpable homicide as the key element- intention to cause death, was absent in both scenarios, when the accused hit the wife with a ploughshare and when he hung her body.
The Hon’ble High Court overruled the judgement of the sessions court and held that the accused will not be held liable for murder or culpable homicide. He will instead be held liable only for the grievous hurt caused when using the ploughshare to hit the victim and for tampering with evidence.
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