Culpable Homicide and Murder under Indian Penal Code

In simple words, Murder can be defined as the killing of a human being by another human being. Under IPC, the concept of murder is dealt in sections 299 and 300 which state the definition of culpable homicide and murder respectively.

Culpable Homicide- Section 299

According to sec. 299, Culpable Homicide is defined as an act done by a person causing death by doing an act with an 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.

For an act to be culpable homicide there must be mens rea (intention) to cause bodily injury or to cause death. But in some cases the offender will not be certain of the death of the victim, then it can be said the offender has committed culpable homicide. For eg. If “Z” kills “A” without the intention of killing him, then he has said to commit culpable homicide under section 299.

Elements/Ingredients of Culpable Homicide

  1. Causing of death of a human being
  2. By doing an act
  3. The death is caused by;
  • with the intention of causing death
  • with the intention of causing bodily injury as is likely to cause death
  • with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death.

The punishment for Culpable Homicide is stated in Section 304 which states that whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable for fine.

Cases

In the case of Reg. v. Govinda, the offender had kicked his wife many times along with few blows which later led to cause a effect on her eye which furthermore led to producing contusion and discoloration and due to all of this the girl died. The judges later held that the act was not done with an intention to commit murder, therefore he liable for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

In the case of Narasingh Challan v State, the distinction between Culpable Homicide and Murder was drawn. In the scheme of the Penal Code, ‘culpable homicide’ is genus and ‘murder’ its specie.

Murder- Section 300

According to section 300, Culpable Homicide is Murder,

  1. If the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death
  2. If the act causes bodily injury
  3. If it was done with the intention of causing bodily injury and the bodily injury inflicted causes death
  4. If the person committed the act and causes death or bodily injury and the person commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury.

The major difference between Culpable Homicide and Murder is there is some kind of intention in Culpable Homicide but not as powerful as the intention involved in the murder. But for the crime of Murder, the intention is the main and important part of the crime.

There are certain exceptions where Culpable Homicide is not a murder:

Exception 1: Grave and Sudden Provocation

This happens when a person is forced to do the act, he is not in his own self-control. Someone else is controlling and provoking the offender into doing the act. This exception is subject to the following provisos:

  1. The provocation was voluntarily provoked by the offender himself as an excuse for killing of harming the victim
  2. The provocation is not given by anything done in obedience to the law, or by the public servant in the lawful exercise of its own powers
  3. The provocation is not given by anything done in the lawful exercise of the right of private defense.

Exception 2: Private Defense

When the offender in good faith, exceeds the law by using his right of private defense to protect himself or his property then the culpable homicide is not murder.

Exception 3: Public Servant

When the offender is a public servant and acts in good faith for the advancement of public justice then the culpable homicide is not murder.

Exception 4: Sudden fight or Quarrel

When the act is committed in the heat of passion and a sudden fight breaks out then the culpable homicide is not murder.

Exception 5: Consent of the victim

If the person whose death is caused has taken the risk of his own death or the death is caused with his own consent then the culpable homicide is not murder.

Punishment for Murder is stated in section 302 which states whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable for fine.

Cases

In the case of State of UP v. Virendra Prasad, it was held that for an act to be classified under section 300, culpable homicide is murder then both of the following conditions have to be satisfied: (a) that the act which causes death is done with the intention of causing death or is done with the intention of causing bodily injury and (b) that the injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.

In the case of Rajwant Singh v. State of Kerala, the difference between murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder was drawn and the main element being mens rea, its presence is important in order to distinguish the two crimes.

In the case of Virsa Singh Vs. State of Punjab, the accused thrust a spear into the abdomen of the deceased which led to his death. It was found by the judges that the accused intended to cause grievous hurt to the accused. Therefore, it was held that it must be proved that the offender had the intention of inflicting harm on the victim, if the offender fails to prove that he/she had no intention to cause harm, it will be presumed they intended to do the crime.

Also read- Atrocious Mortal Sins Against Women Under Indian Penal Code, 1860

This article is edited by Rupreet Kaur Dhariwal.