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Murder (IPC)

Updated: May 12


Murder (IPC)
Murder (IPC)

Content:-



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 -


2ndly — 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 - 


3rdly - 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 -


4thly - 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.



Illustrations

  • A shoots Z with the intention of killing him. Z dies in consequence. A commits murder. 


  • A, knowing that Z is labouring under such a disease that a blow is likely to cause his death, strikes him with the intention of causing bodily injury. Z dies in consequence of the blow. A is guilty of murder, although the blow might not have been sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death of a person in a sound state of health. 


  • But, ifA, not knowing that Z is labouring under any disease, gives him such a blow as would not in the ordinary course of nature kill a person in sound state of health, here A, although he may intend to cause bodily injury, is not guil/y of murder, if he did not intend to cause death, or such bodily injury as in the ordinary course of nature would cause death.


  • A intentionally gives Z a sword-cut sufficient to cause the death of a man in the ordinary course of nature. Z dies in consequence. Here, A is guilty of murder, although he has not intended to cause Z’s death.


  • A without any excuse fires a loaded cannon into a crowd of persons and kills one of them


  • A is guilty of murder, although he may not have had a premeditated design to kill any particular individual.

 
 

Analysis of Sec. 300


Clause 1: Act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death - Clause 1: Act by which death is caused is done with the intention of causing death - Determining intention is always a factual matter. The nature of the weapons used, the location of the injury, the force, and the number of blows are all factors that can be considered to infer intention. 



For instance, in a case where the accused repeatedly stabbed the victim with a knife leading to death, it was inferred that the intention was to kill. Similarly, setting fire to a room where the victim was sleeping, locking it from the outside, and preventing villagers from rendering help clearly indicates an intention to kill.



In another example, stabbing one's wife forcefully in the middle of the back with a torch, penetrating the spinal cavity, suggests the intention could only have been to kill her. 



When assessing whether the intention was to cause the specific injury inflicted, the inquiry focuses on broader aspects such as whether there was an intention to strike a vital or dangerous part of the body with sufficient force to cause the observed injury. It's not necessary to delve into intricate details like targeting specific organs; rather, it's a common-sense evaluation that an ordinary person could grasp. 



In a case where the appellant argued that he was unarmed and had only snatched the knife from another person, the court held that if someone snatches a weapon and inflicts lethal injuries, it cannot be assumed that they lacked intention to cause death. The severity and location of the injuries inflicted are crucial factors in determining intention in each case.



Clause 2: With the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause death - The phrase "intention to cause bodily injury as is likely to cause death" simply refers to intending to cause a specific injury that is likely to result in death. It is not the death itself that is intended, nor the direct effect of the injury.



For instance, if someone delivers a forceful blow to the head of their victim using a deadly weapon like an iron stone, it's reasonable to presume that they intended to cause an injury they knew could result in death.



In a case where a motor mechanic inflicted a deep abdominal injury with a screwdriver during a verbal altercation, resulting in almost instantaneous death, the court held that the accused could be deemed to have intended to cause injury sufficient to cause death.


The use of a screwdriver, a common tool for mechanics, cannot be seen as innocuous, and the plea of suddenness without premeditation was rejected.



Similarly, if all the injuries inflicted target vital parts of the body, it can be inferred that the accused intended to cause bodily injury falling under Section 300.


In cases where the victim was mercilessly beaten, even after falling down, the intention to cause bodily injury is evident, and the accused can be presumed to know that inflicting numerous injuries on a defenseless individual could lead to death.



This clause also extends to situations where the perpetrator has special knowledge of the victim's constitution, physical condition, or ailments. 



In cases involving poisoning, the prosecution needs to establish three key points: that death occurred due to poisoning, that the accused had access to the poison, and that they had the opportunity to administer it.



While direct proof may be lacking, circumstantial evidence can suffice to prove guilt. For example, in a case where arsenic was administered to a young boy to prevent his father from testifying against the perpetrator, the court found the accused guilty of murder.



Clause 3: With the intention of causing bodily injury to any person sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death - Clause three of Section 300 comprises two parts. Firstly, it must be demonstrated that the accused intended to inflict the specific injury found on the deceased's body, ruling out unintentional or accidental causes.



Secondly, it must be established that the bodily injury intended to be inflicted was inherently fatal in the ordinary course of nature, as confirmed by medical evidence.


Once the intention to cause bodily injury is proven, the inquiry becomes purely objective, focusing on whether the injury is inherently fatal.



Lack of intention to cause death or knowledge of the injury's lethal potential does not absolve the accused. Cumulative injuries, even if individually non-lethal, can collectively satisfy this provision.


In such cases, the dangerous nature of the injuries as confirmed by medical evidence outweighs any prolonged survival by the deceased.



Clause 4 : 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... without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death - Clause 4 of Section 300 doesn't require intention but focuses on the commission of an imminently dangerous act likely to cause death or serious bodily harm, without excuse.



It applies when previous clauses don't fit the circumstances. The offender must have a high degree of certainty about the act's dangerousness. This clause applies to acts endangering many lives, such as firing into a crowd or poisoning a well.



It's crucial that the act is done knowingly, without excuse, and with awareness of its deadly potential. Actions driven by superstition or divine inspiration don't excuse causing death.



Sec. 302. Punishment for murder - Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.



Sec. 304. Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder - Section 304 delineates punishments for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Part I entails imprisonment for life or 10 years plus fine, while Part II stipulates imprisonment for 10 years, fine, or both.



Offences under Sec. 299 Clause 2 (intention) are penalised under Part I, while Clause 3 (only knowledge) offences fall under Part II.


If the offence falls under Sec. 300 Clauses 1, 2, or 3 but is exempted by exceptions, Part I applies. If it falls under Clause 4 but is covered by exceptions, Part II applies.


Thus, murder can only be reduced to culpable homicide under specific exceptions in Sec. 300.




Distinction between Culpable Homicide and Murder


Sir James Stephen criticised the definitions of culpable homicide and murder in the Penal Code, noting their close resemblance and the difficulty in distinguishing between them.


While both involve causing death and entail intention or knowledge, murder is considered a more serious form of culpable homicide.



The distinction lies in the gravity of the offence. Culpable homicide is the broader term, encompassing all instances not classified as murder.


Murder, on the other hand, is the most severe form of culpable homicide, defined under Section 300 and punishable under Section 302.



The Penal Code recognizes three degrees of culpable homicide, each with varying degrees of intention or knowledge.


The Supreme Court advises focusing on the key words in Sections 299 and 300 for interpretation and application.



The first clause of Sec. 300 mirrors the first part of Sec. 299, indicating that if a case falls under cl. (a) of Sec. 299, it generally amounts to murder.


Clause (b) of Sec. 299 corresponds with clauses (2) and (3) of Sec. 300, with the key difference being the offender's knowledge of the victim's peculiar condition that makes the harm likely to be fatal.



In cl. (3) of Sec. 300, the emphasis shifts to the injury being "sufficient in the ordinary course of nature" to cause death, indicating a higher degree of probability compared to "likely to cause death" in Sec. 299 (b). This distinction often hinges on the nature of the weapon used. 

 
 

Similarly, cl. (c) of Sec. 299 and cl. (4) of Sec. 300 both involve knowledge of the act's dangerous nature and its likelihood to cause death, with cl. (4) requiring a higher degree of probability.


The determination of whether the offence is culpable homicide or murder depends on the degree of risk to human life.



For instance, firing at a target near a public road may constitute culpable homicide, while firing into a crowd is likely to be considered murder if done without excuse for incurring the risk.


In Vineet Kumar Chauhan v State of U.P., the accused's use of a revolver was deemed likely to cause death, resulting in a conviction under Sec. 299, cl. (c) rather than Sec. 300.



Leading Case Laws


State of andhra pradesh v R. Punnayya  (AIR 1977 SC 45): If two elements - whether the bodily injury was intentionally inflicted by the accused and if so, were sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature - are established, the offence will be murder regardless of the accused's intention. In a case where members of one faction indiscriminately beat a man from another faction, intending to cause grievous injuries, the cumulative effect of the injuries was found to be sufficient to cause death. Although the beating was confined to non-vital parts of the body, the court held it fell under Sec. 300(3) as the injuries, when viewed collectively, were likely to cause death. 


The court emphasised the distinction between Sec. 299(b) and Sec. 300(3), highlighting that while the former requires injuries likely to cause death, the latter necessitates injuries sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.



Even if individually the injuries were not fatal, if cumulatively they were likely to cause death, it falls under Sec. 300(3).



In another case where a man threw a burning stove at another during a sudden quarrel, the court held it amounted to culpable homicide under Sec. 299(2) as the act was likely to cause injuries resulting in death, rejecting the argument for a lesser charge under Sec. 304-A.



KAPUR SINGH v STATE OF PEPSU (AIR 1956 SC 654) 

Facts - About a year prior to the incident, Bachhan Singh severely injured Pritam Singh, resulting in the amputation of his leg. As a result, Kapur Singh, Pritam Singh's father, held a grudge against Bachhan Singh and his father.


On a subsequent day, Kapur Singh and an associate attacked Bachhan Singh's father, inflicting 18 injuries on his arms and legs with a gandasa. Kapur Singh was convicted under Sec. 302 and sentenced to death, but he appealed to the Supreme Court.


Issues - Did Kapur Singh intend to kill the deceased? If not, under which section can Kapur Singh be convicted?


Decision - The Supreme Court altered the conviction from Sec. 302 to Sec. 304, Part I. The court reasoned that Kapur Singh did not intend to kill the deceased outright, as no vital parts of the body were targeted.



However, he intended to cause injuries that would likely result in the amputation of both arms and legs. Therefore, while the injuries were not inflicted with the intention of murder, Kapur Singh knew they were likely to cause death, considering their number and nature. Section 299(b) was applied.



Comments - The court did not consider Sec. 300, clause Thirdly, and there was no medical report available in the case.



VIRSA SINGH v STATE OF PUNJAB (AIR 1958 SC 465) - The Supreme Court clarified Sec. 300(3), outlining guidelines for its application. It emphasised that intention is necessary only for the first clause, not the second.


Even if the intention was limited to inflicting an injury sufficient to cause death, the offence would still be murder. Once the existence of the injury is proved, intention to cause it is presumed. The court stated that whether intention exists is a question of fact.



In Virsa Singh's case, the appellant thrust a spear into the abdomen of the deceased, causing a fatal injury. The court held that the injury, coupled with the intention to inflict it, constituted murder under Sec. 300 "thirdly".



Unlike in Kapur Singh's case, where Sec. 300(3) wasn't considered, in Virsa Singh's case, the clause was applied. The medical report supported the findings. While Kapur Singh was convicted under Sec. 299(b) and Sec. 304, Part I, Virsa Singh was found guilty under Sec. 300 "thirdly" and convicted under Sec. 302.]



R. Venkalu v STATE OF HYDERABAD (AIR 1956 SC 171) - The Supreme Court concluded that the appellants' intention to kill the deceased was evident from several incriminating circumstances: they deliberately set fire to the cottage, locked the door from outside, prevented rescue attempts, and acted on a pre-concerted plan due to a longstanding land dispute. Hence, they were convicted under Sec. 302, IPC.



EMPEROR v M.S. MOORTHY ["HALVA CASE”] [(1912) Mad. 13 CrU 145] - The court clarified that under Sec. 299 and Sec. 300, IPC, the offender's intention to cause death need not be directed towards a specific person.


It suffices if death is involuntarily caused to another person due to the offender's actions. Contributory actions of the victim or third parties do not absolve the offender of responsibility.


Hence, the accused, who intended to kill another but inadvertently caused the death of two children, was convicted of murder under Sec. 302, IPC.



Rajwant singh v state of kerala (AIR 1966 SC 1874) - The appellants, former Indian Navy personnel, conspired to burgle the base supply office and immobilised the officer in-charge, resulting in his death.


While they claimed they only intended to render him unconscious, the Supreme Court differentiated between murder and culpable homicide.


The court found that the first two clauses of Sec. 300 were not applicable as there was no intention to kill or subjective knowledge of fatal consequences.


However, the third clause was deemed applicable as the deliberate and preplanned actions of the appellants caused the victim's death. Therefore, the appellants were convicted of murder under Sec. 300.

 
 

DHUPA CHAMAR v STATE OF BIHAR  [(2002) 6 SCC 506] - In cases involving a single blow causing death, the nature of the offence varies depending on the circumstances.


Factors such as the nature of the injury, the weapon used, and the intention of the offender are crucial. The Supreme Court emphasised that there's no blanket rule dictating that a single blow always leads to a specific charge.


Instead, each case must be assessed individually. In one case, where a single blow ruptured major blood vessels, resulting in death, the court invoked "Thirdly" of Sec. 300, indicating the offender's clear intention to inflict a fatal injury.


The absence of evidence to the contrary led to the conclusion that the accused indeed intended to cause the injury. The severity of the injury was sufficient to establish the offence as murder.


However, in another case, where a single blow was delivered on a dark night with uncertainty about the offender's intention to cause injury to the head, the court altered the conviction to a lesser offence under Sec. 304, Part II.



Similarly, in another case, where the appellant inflicted a severe blow on the head resulting in death, the intention to cause the fatal injury was evident, leading to a conviction under "Thirdly" of Sec. 300. These cases illustrate the nuanced approach the courts take in determining the appropriate charge based on the specific circumstances of each case.



EMPEROR v MT. DHIRAJIA (AIR 1940 ALL. 486) - In a distressing incident, Dhirajia, a young woman, fled from her husband after an altercation, carrying their six-month-old baby.


When her husband pursued her, she panicked and leaped into a well with the baby in her arms. Tragically, the baby perished, but Dhirajia survived.


The court deliberated on whether Dhirajia's actions amounted to murder or a lesser offence. It was contended that she lacked the intention to cause death or bodily harm to her baby.


The court concurred, acknowledging that in such a state of panic, the capacity for reasoned intention might be compromised. However, some level of knowledge about the imminent danger would still be assumed.


Jumping into a well with a baby was undeniably perilous, and even in a state of fear, one would be aware of the likely consequences.


Despite this, the court recognized Dhirajia's excuse of panic and fear of her husband, thereby negating the presumption of murder under "4thly" of Sec. 300.


Consequently, she was found guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Sec. 304, Part II, IPC. Additionally, the court ruled out the charge of attempted suicide, as Dhirajia's action was driven by a desire to escape her husband rather than a suicidal intent.



GYARSIBAI v THE STATE (AIR 1953 M.B. 61) - In a tragic incident, the appellant, amidst constant quarrels with her sister-in-law, leaped into a well with her three children to escape harassment. While she survived, her children tragically perished. 


The court deliberated on whether the appellant's actions amounted to murder. It was clear she didn't intend to kill her children but sought to end her own life.


Hence, Sec. 300's clauses requiring intent couldn't be applied. The focus shifted to whether her actions fell under the fourth clause of Sec. 300.


It was evident that the appellant knew her act of jumping into the well would likely result in her children's death. However, her distress didn't excuse the grave risk she imposed on her children.


Merely fleeing from harassment didn't justify her lethal action, as there were alternative means of escape.


Consequently, the court ruled her actions as falling under the fourth clause of Sec. 300, punishable under Sec. 302, IPC. Additionally, her conscious act of attempting suicide rendered her liable under the law.

 
 

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