This case analysis is made by Bhavna Arul, a fourth-year law student from Symbiosis Law School.
Criminal Appeal No. 43 of 1955
Vivian Bose, B. Jagannadhadas and Bhuvaneshwar Prasad Sinha, JJ.
AIR 1956 SC 171 / 1956 Cri LJ 338
The two appellants and the deceased have had a long ongoing dispute regarding a certain piece of land. On the night between the 18th and 19th February 1953 the two appellants, Rawalpenta Venkalu and Bodla Ram Narsiah, along with three others, with the intention of causing the death of the deceased had set fire to the hut of the deceased, Md. Moinuddin when he was asleep. In addition to setting fire, they had also latched the front door from outside to make sure the Moinuddin could not leave the house.
Soon after the hut was on fire, Moinuddin had started crying for help. This woke up an old servant who was sleeping in front of the cottage. The servant soon after waking up tried going and helping Moinuddin and he also called the other workers working for Moinuddin who were near-by to help.
When they came near the cottage to help, they were beaten with sticks by the appellants. The servant was beaten severely. The hut was also set on fire again as the previous fire was put off by the wing. The employees of Moinuddin were kept at bay by the superior force of the accused and their associates. These employees later called more villagers to help them. When the villagers came, the appellants and others prevented them from going to the rescue Moinuddin who was stuck in the cottage by throwing dust in their eyes and beating using their sticks.
The first information report of the occurrence was lodged at the Penpabad police station on the morning of the 19th February by Yousuf Ali, a cousin of the deceased, to the effect that some goons of the village had set fire to the cottage occupied by Moinuddin after chaining the outer door, with the result that he was burnt alive and that the villagers who tried to extinguish the fire had been beaten away by those goons. The villagers thus became terrified and had to retreat to the village.
On 22nd and 23rd February, the appellants had made their confessions to the munsif magistrate and were subsequently arrested. These two appeals by special leave arise out of the same judgment and order of a Division Bench of the Hyderabad High Court confirming those of the Sessions Judge of Nalgonda. In Criminal Appeal No. 43 of 1955 Rawalpenta Venkalu is the appellant and in Criminal Appeal No. 44 of 1955, Bodla Ram Narsiah is the appellant. Both these persons were sentenced to death under Section 302, Indian Penal Code for the murder of Md. Moinuddin. They were placed on their trial along with three others who were acquitted by the learned trial Judge. The sentence of death was the subject matter of a reference to the High Court. The two condemned persons had also appealed to the High Court which was dismissed. The case was then tried in the Supreme Court as a reference petition.
Whether the appellants had the intention to kill as per Section 300 (intention to murder) or not?
Section 32, IPC- Common Intention
Section 300, IPC- Definition Clause- Murder
Section 302, IPC- Punishment for Murder
The appellants argued that the death of the deceased, Moinuddin was a result of culpable homicide and not murder. The basis for this argument was to reduce the sentence of the sessions court from the death penalty to life imprisonment.
When we look at the definition sections of murder and culpable homicide, it reads as follows-
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 may sound the same as both of the definitions talk about 2 key ingredients- the intention to cause death and an act that has caused death. However, culpable homicide is considered less severe than murder as the gravity of intention in culpable homicide is lower than the intention in murder.
The Supreme Court observed the following-
- The appellants and the victim had an ongoing dispute over a piece of land which instigated the appellants to kill the victim.
- Both the accused lit matches to set the cottage on fire.
- They took measures to make sure the victim doesn’t leave the house by locking the front door from out.
- They also did not let anyone help the victim out as they brutally
- attacked anyone who tried helping by beating with sticks and throwing dust in their eyes.
- The murder was preplanned as the appellants had attacked the victim in the middle of the night after he had gone to sleep.
By stating the following reasons, the Supreme Court established intention to kill under Section 300 of the IPC.
The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Sessions Court and decided that this was a clear case of Murder under section 300 and awarded the death penalty under section 302.
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