As a law student, most of us has scratched our heads over the difference
between culpable homicide and murder. While the legislators proved to be of
little help, I present to you the divergence between the Section 299 and Section
300 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Killing of a man by a man is punishable by the Indian Penal Code, 1860. In
general terms, it comes under the garb of culpable homicide. Both sections
mention of an act done with the intention of causing death
, the only
difference are the exceptions mentioned under murder that make the act fall
within culpable homicide.
Exceptions of sudden and grave provocation, exceeding the right of private
defence, exceeding lawful power by a public servant, sudden fight and major's
own consent does have 'intention to cause death' but are not classified as
murders. In simple words, culpable homicide amounts to murder when the case
falls within one of the clauses under Section 300. Within Section 299 there are
three degrees of mens rea and the mens rea of Culpable homicide and murder also
differs. Legally speaking, mens rea in murder is of gravest nature.
Second part of Section 299 depicts a mens rea to cause 'bodily injury as likely
to cause death' while clause secondly of Section 300 speaks of both 'intention'
and 'knowledge' of causing a bodily injury as likely to cause death. So, if you
hit a person with intention to injure him but does not know or are not sure that
the person will die of such act, this is the case of culpable homicide.
Similarly, if you hit vital parts of body, or pre-existing wounds and stitches,
you both intend to cause injury and know that the person will die of such act.
If you notice closely, the difference is of mens rea in form of knowledge
and possibility of death. It is important to discuss hurt/grevious hurt here and
should not be confused with any of the above elements.
Grievous hurt under Section 320 contains a specific form of mens rea of
voluntarily/intentionally/knowingly causing hurt as defined in Section 319. It
will be interesting to note that the acts result in bodily injury, disease or
infirmity but NOT death.
Third part of Section 299 speaks of knowledge as likely to cause death
Knowledge is the bare state of conscious awareness of certain facts in which
mind itself remain supine . It is noteworthy here that there is NO intention
to do an act that is likely to cause death.
You may drive rash at night to feel that adrenaline rush but you do not intend
to kill someone. However, you have knowledge that your act may kill someone.
Clause thirdly of section 300 mentions intention to cause bodily injury
its sufficiency to cause death in ordinary course of nature. The conjunctive
'and' suggest that both requirements have to be fulfilled together. Intention is
the conscious state in which mental faculties are roused into activity and
summed up into action for deliberate purpose of being directed towards a
particular end .
It is important here to note that only intention
to cause a particular
injury is required. One may not have an intention to kill for that matter. A
stake through the heart or a sword in the spine will come under murders when
intention to give this type of injury is established and these acts are
sufficient in ordinary course of nature to cause death.
Section 300 contains an additional clause that is fourthly having the highest
probability of death by an act that is known by the offender to be 'imminently
dangerous' and the act is done without any excuse. The excuse here is not one of
the exceptions under this section.
No intention is required here, the act is simply reckless. So, a person rash
driving in a crowded street knows that his act can surely kill someone.
Although, he does not have an intention to kill. In all the cases of these two
crimes, the court looks upon a number of factors like number of accused, nature
of weapons and injuries, part of body injured etc .
To sum up, all acts causing death are not classified as murders, but death is
caused in both-culpable homicide and murder. Murder can also be seen as a
sub-set or specie of culpable homicide. One can also understand it in this way,
murder is the aggravated form of culpable homicide; the difference is of degree
and not form. Whether it is a stake through the heart or a murder in cold blood,
criminal intention has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Written By: Kanika Arora
- Rajni vs State, CRL.A. 457/2015
- Tapas vs The State of NCT Of Delhi, CRL.A. 238/2002
- Page no. 655, Ch. 33, 14th ed., PSA Pillai’s Criminal Law
- LLB hons, RGSOIPL, IIT Kharagpur
Email: [email protected]