All Murders are culpable Homicides.
Are not Murder?
In the scheme of the Penal Code, culpable homicide is genus and murder its
specie. All murder is culpable homicide but not vice- versa.
Section 299 and Section 300 IPC deal with the definition of Culpable Homicide
The word comes from Latin where homo means man and cide means I cut.
Thus homicide means the killing of a man by man. The homicide may be lawful or
unlawful. Culpable homicide means death through human agency punishable by law.
All murders are culpable homicide but all culpable homicide is not murder. So
practically there is no difference between culpable homicide and murder. The
question that arises is whether an offence is a murder or culpable homicide
not amounting to murder? Lawful homicide will set the culprit free. It may
further be classified into:-
Excusable homicide and Justifiable homicide.
Homicide is unlawful when the death is caused by an intentional act. 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
(A) 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.
(B) 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 Zs 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.
(C) 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.
Explanation 1 - A person who causes bodily injury, to another who is labouring
under a disorder, disease or bodily infirmity, and thereby accelerates the death
of that other, shall be deemed to have caused his death.
Explanation 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 skilful treatment the death might have been
Explanation 3 - the causing of the death of a child in the mothers 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.
The important elements of culpable homicide are:-
-With the intention of causing death,
By doing an act-
With the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely
to cause death, or
The act of death must be done: -
With the knowledge that such act is likely to
There are two classes of culpable homicide:
Culpable Homicide Amounting to Murder:
It is known as simple murder.
Culpable homicide not amounting to Murder:
There is necessarily a criminal or
knowledge in both. The difference does not lie in quality; it lies in the
quantity or degree of criminality closed by the act. In murder, there is greater
intention or knowledge than in culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code – 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-
# 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,
# 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-
# 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.
Delhi December 16, 2012 Gang Rape in Bus Case - In this case of brutal, barbaric
gang rape, unnatural sex and assault leading to death of victim, principles of
balancing of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, applied and death
sentence confirmed even though there were many mitigating factors, Mukesh vs
State (NCT of Delhi), (2017) 6 SCC 1.
Distinction between Culpable Homicide and Murder
According to Sir James Stephen, the definition of culpable homicide and murder
are the weakest part of the code, as they are defined in forms closely
resembling each other and times it becomes difficult to distinguish between the
two as the causing of death is common to both. However, the difference between
culpable homicides is real though very fine and based upon a very subtle
distinction of the intention and knowledge involved in these crimes. The true
difference lies in the degree, there being the greater intention or knowledge of
the fatal consequences in the one case than the other.
The distinction between sections 299 and 300 was made clear by Melvil J. in Reg. vs Govinda
[1876 ILR Bom 342]. In this case the accused had knocked his wife
down, put one knee on her chest, and struck her two or three violent blows on
the face with the closed fist, producing extraversion of blood on the brain and
she died in consequence, either on the spot, or very shortly afterwards, there
being no intention to cause death and the bodily injury not being sufficient in
the ordinary course of nature to cause death. The accused was liable for
culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Murder or culpable homicide not amounting to Murder
The difference between these two offences is a difference of degree not of form.
The degree of intention or knowledge determines the nature of the offence,
whether it is murder or culpable homicide.
Where the degree of such intention or knowledge stands at zero, the act causing
such death shall be deemed to be negligence and it shall amount to neither
murder nor culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Every act causing death is not murder, indeed it may be an offence even lesser
than culpable homicide, such as, hurt or any injury through negligence. All
acts, causing death are not necessarily murder or culpable homicide, though all
acts, amounting to murder or culpable homicide cause death.
The Supreme Court has expressed its regret that the distinction between murder
and culpable homicide not amounting to murder is often lost sight of resulting
in undue liberality in favour of undeserving culprits and emphasized that
except in cases covered by the five exceptions mentioned in Section 300 of the
Penal Code culpable homicide is murder if the act by which the death is caused
is done with the intention of causing death, or if the act falls within any of
the three clauses of Section 300, namely, 2ndly, 3rdly, and 4thly. Where the
accused brought to the police station was beaten by the constables with the
intention to cause such bodily injury as the constables knew would cause his
death, the injuries would fall under clause 2ndly of Section 300.
The distinction between murder and culpable homicide, between the grave and
simple forms has been well set out in the well-known leading case of Reg. v.
Govinda The accused knocked his wife down, put one knee on her chest, struck her
two three violent blows on the face with a closed fist causing extravasation of
blood resulting in her death. The issue was whether the offence disclosed by the
facts was murder or culpable homicide.
Section 299 of IPC
A person commits culpable homicide, if the act by
which the death is caused is done-
Subject to certain exceptions culpable homicide is murder, if the act by which
the death is caused is done-
# With the intention of causing death;
# With the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death
Section 300 of IPC:
# With the intention of causing death;
# With the intention of causing such bodily knows to be likely to cause the
death of the person to whom the harm is caused;
# 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;
# With the knowledge that the act is so imminently dangerous that it must in
all probability cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.