Culpable Homicide

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.

Illustrations

  1. A lays sticks and turf over a pit, with the intention of thereby causing death, or with the knowledge that death is likely to be thereby caused. Z, believing the ground to be firm, treads on it, falls in and is killed. A has committed the offence of culpable homicide.
  2. A knows Z to be behind a bush. B does not know it. A, intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely to cause Z’ death, induces B to fire at the bush. B fires and kills Z. Here B may be guilty of no offence; but A has committed the offence of culpable homicide.
  3. A, by shooting at a fowl with intent to kill and steal it, kills B, who is behind a bush; A not knowing that he was there. Here, although A was doing an unlawful act, he was not guilty of culpable homicide, as he did not intend to kill B or to cause death by doing an act that he knew was likely to cause death.

Explanations

  1. A person, who causes bodily injury to another who is laboring under a disorder, disease or bodily infirmity, and thereby accelerates the death of that other, shall be deemed to have caused his death.
  2. Where death is caused by bodily injury, the person who causes such bodily injury shall be deemed to have caused the death, although by resorting to proper remedies and skillful treatment the death might have been prevented.
  3. The causing of the death of a child in the mother’ womb is not homicide. But it may amount to culpable homicide to cause the death of a living child, if any part of that child has been brought forth, though the child may not have breathed or been completely born.

Essential elements of culpable homicide

  1. Death- this element plays important role in making the decision regarding culpable homicide, death should happen through any act. If the death does not happen then it may amount to grievous hurt.
  2. Intention- the mens rea that means the mental element should be present in this offence. If the death is caused without intention such an act would not amount to culpable homicide.
  3. Bodily injury- if any person gives a blow of punch on a chest of a heart patient, and that patient died then that person can be convicted of culpable homicide, only if the person has caused the bodily injury with an intention to cause death.
  4. Knowledge- knowledge plays an important role in defining culpable homicide, if the offender has knowledge that a particular act may cause the death of the victim then he is said to commit culpable homicide.

Cases-

GHANSSHAM V/S STATE OF MAHARASHTRA 1996: The accused husband stabbed his wife on chest resulting in her death on her refusal to have sexual intercourse with him. It was held that the act was done in sheer frustration and anger and so his liability was based on sec. 299(2) of IPC.

SARABJEET SINGH V/S ST ATE 1994: The accused did not have good relation with complainant on account of sale transaction of piece of land. He went to the house and assaulted the complainant and his wife. He also picked up the infant child of the complainant and threw him down on the ground with force as a result of which the child died some time later. The accused was held guilty under sec. 304 Part-II.

 

Difference between culpable homicide and murder-

The question is when death of man is to be treated as culpable homicide or murder. There is thin difference between the murder and culpable homicide, it has been repeatedly held by this Court that culpable homicide is the genus and murder is species and that all murders are culpable homicide but not vice versa. Section 300 IPC further provides for the exceptions which will constitute culpable homicide not amounting to murder and punishable under Section 304. When and if there is intent and knowledge then the same would be a case of Section 304 Part I and if it is only a case of knowledge and not the intention to cause murder and bodily injury, then the same would be a case of Section 304 Part II. The aforesaid distinction between an act amounting to murder and an act not amounting to murder has been brought out in the numerous decisions of the Court.

 Conclusion

Culpable homicide is defined under the section 299 of IPC, but there is no definition of murder given under any section which could be used to define the offence. Under section 300 of IPC there are given some exceptional cases in which culpable homicide may amount to murder. It is completely the interpretation of the court, which states that there is a thin line difference between culpable homicide and murder. So it depends on the circumstances of the case in which culpable homicide sometimes amounts to murder.

Authored by Nehul Chaturvedi | Edited by Prerna Sharma.

 

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