“Homicide” refers to killing of a human being by a human being. It is the highest degree of bodily injury that can be inflicted on a human body. However, it is not always necessary that a person committing homicide would be held liable.
Culpable homicide is defined under section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, provides it as “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.”
Culpable Homicide is one of the categories of prohibited homicide and it elucidates when an act of causing the death of a person constitutes culpable homicide.
The imperative ingredients that must exist in order to constitute a particular offence as Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder are discussed as follows:
- Causing Death/ Bodily Injury Likely to cause death: To attract the provisions of this section, death must be caused or bodily injury that is likely to cause death.
- Doing of an Act: The act, as explained under Section 32, IPC, is given a wider scope. It not only includes the commission of an unlawful act but also the illegal omission of an act, thereby causing the death of a person or causing bodily injury that may have caused death.
- Intention: the intention of causing death or of causing a bodily injury that is likely to cause death.
- Knowledge: The person doing the act has the knowledge that such act is likely to cause death or he has the knowledge that it may cause injury which is likely to cause death.
In the case of Nara Singh Challan v. State of Orissa, the court observed that:
“For deciding the proper punishment which is proportionate to the current offence, IPC has divided culpable homicide into three degrees. First is the gravest form which is Murder and is defined under Section 300 of IPC, the second is the culpable homicide of the second degree which is punishable under Section 304 part 1 of IPC and third is the lowest degree of culpable homicide punishable under Section 304 part 2 of IPC.”
Hence, the punishment for the offence of culpable homicide depends on the degree of intention and seriousness to commit the offence. Section 301 of the IPC lays down the Doctrine of Transferred Malice. It states that if a person had an intention of killing someone but accidentally, without any intention, kills another person, then the liability on him would be the same as it would have been if he had caused the death of the person whom he intended to. This doctrine was used by the Court in the case of Shankarlal Kacchrabhi and Others v. State of Gujarat while applying Section 301.
Culpable Homicide amounting to Murder
Culpable Homicide amounting to murder which is simply known as murder and comes under the purview of Section 300 of IPC, which states that: Culpable homicide is murder if it is caused with:
- The intention of causing death, or
- The intention of causing such bodily injury, which the offender knows is likely to cause death.
- The intention of causing bodily injury, which is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
- The person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it would in all probability cause death or such bodily injury which is likely to cause death and commits the act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such bodily injury likely to cause death.
Section 300 of the IPC states when culpable homicide will amount to murder. Whereas the exceptions discuss when culpable homicide would not amount to murder. If the act by which the death is committed falls under any of the above-mentioned conditions and is not present in any of the exceptions to Section 300, then the act would be called murder, i.e., the culpable homicide amounting to murder.
Exceptions to Section 300 IPC
There are certain exceptions provided under Section 300 of the IPC, which exempts culpable homicide from being turned into murder. The exceptions are as follows:
- Culpable Homicide does not amount to murder when the offender while committing the offence was deprived of self-control due to grave and sudden provocation and caused the death of the person who gave such provocation, or of any other person accidentally or by mistake. It must be noted that this exception is subject to some conditions; provocation should not be used as an excuse for killing or causing harm to someone, the provocation must not be of a public servant in the lawful exercise of his power, or such provocation is not considered when it is given by anything done in the lawful exercise of the right of private defence.
- If a person exceeded his right to private defence and caused the death of the person against whom he was exercising such rights, but had no intention of causing more harm than is necessary for the purpose of his defence.
- If a public servant causes death by exceeding his lawful exercise of power, which he does in good faith believing himself bound to do so.
- If the death is caused in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel.
- If the death of such a person is caused, who is above 18 years of age and himself consented to his death.
In the case of K.M. Nanavati v. the State of Maharashtra, the court held that “The test to determine whether the action of the accused comes within the ambit of provocation or not is to examine whether any reasonable man having the same capacity and belonging to the same class or section of society if placed in the same situation as accused would also be provoked as to lose his/her self control.” The court further observed that the action resulting from sudden and grave provocation should be immediately when the person was provoked but not after the time which was sufficient for one to calm down.
Punishment for culpable homicide amounting to murder is given under Section 302 of the IPC, which states “whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”
The offence of culpable homicide and murder are analogous to each other and it is very difficult to understand the distinction between the two. However, by reading the provisions, it can be analyzed that murder is nothing but the aggravated form of culpable homicide and is graver due to the higher probability of death in the case of murder. Further, murder has not been defined in IPC, what is mentioned in Section 300 of IPC is the condition when culpable homicide would amount to murder. Hence, murder is just a form of Culpable Homicide. Section 300 of IPC discusses the circumstances under which a culpable homicide would amount to murder and the exceptions to the same sections lay down certain conditions when the culpable homicide would not amount to murder.