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Culpable Homicide – MURDER

June 17, 2021

Culpable HomicideMeaning:—

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 299, Penal Code, 1860 .  In the scheme of the Indian Penal Code, “culpable homicide” is genus and “murder” its specie. All “murder” is “culpable homicide” but not vice-versa. Speaking generally, “culpable homicide” sans “special characteristics of murder”, is “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”. For the purpose of fixing punishment, proportionate to the gravity of this generic offence, the Code practically recognises three degrees of culpable homicide. The first is, what may be called, “culpable homicide of the first degree”. This is the greatest form of culpable homicide, which is defined in Section 300 as “murder”. The second may be termed as “culpable homicide of the second degree”. This is punishable under the first part of Section 304. Then, there is “culpable homicide of the third degree”. This is the lowest type of culpable homicide and the punishment provided for it is, also, the lowest among the punishments provided for the three grades. Culpable homicide of this degree is punishable under the second part of Section 304, State of A.P. v. Rayavarapu Punnayya(1976) 4 SCC 382, 386 : 1976 SCC (Cri) 659.

Culpable Homicide and Murder :—

Sections 299 and 300 IPC deal with the definition of “culpable homicide” and “murder” respectively. In Section 299 IPC, “culpable homicide” is described as an act of causing death : (i) with the intention of causing death or (ii) with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death or (iii) with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause death. The former part of Section 299 emphasises on the expression “intention” while the latter upon “knowledge”. Both these are positive mental attitudes, however, of different degrees. The mental element in “culpable homicide”, that is, the mental attitude towards the consequences of conduct is one of intention and knowledge. Once an offence is caused in any of the three stated manners noted above, it would be “culpable homicide”. “Murder” is dealt with in Section 300 IPC although there is no clear definition of “murder” in that section. “Culpable homicide” is the genus and “murder” is its species and all “murders” are “culpable homicides” but all “culpable homicides” are not “murders”. Section 300 IPC proceeds with reference to Section 299 IPC. Section 300 IPC states what kind of acts, when done with the intention of causing death or bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause death or causing bodily injury to any person, which is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death or the person causing injury knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death, would amount to “murder”. It is also “murder” when such an act is committed, without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such bodily injury. The section also prescribes the Exceptions to “culpable homicide amounting to murder”. The Explanations spell out the elements which need to be satisfied for application of such Exceptions, like an act done in the heat of passion and without premeditation. Where the offender whilst being deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation causes the death of the person who has caused the provocation or causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident, provided such provocation was not at the behest of the offender himself, “culpable homicide would not amount to murder”. This Exception itself has three limitations. All these are questions of facts and would have to be determined in the facts and circumstances of a given case, Rampal Singh v. State of U.P.(2012) 8 SCC 289 : (2012) 3 SCC (Cri) 860.

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