Explained| Is ‘motive’ an indispensable ingredient for proving the charge of attempt to murder?

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant* and AS Bopanna, JJ has held that whilst motive is infallibly a crucial factor for proving an offence under Section 307 IPC, and is a substantial aid for evincing the commission of an offence but the absence thereof is, however, not such a quintessential component which can be construed as fatal to the case of the prosecution, especially when all other factors point towards the guilt of the accused and testaments of eye¬witnesses to the occurrence of a malfeasance are on record.

It is important to note that for the purpose of constituting an offence under Section 307 IPC, there are two ingredients that a Court must consider,

  • First, whether there was any intention or knowledge on the part of accused to cause death of the victim, and,
  • second, such intent or knowledge was followed by some overt actus rea in execution thereof, irrespective of the consequential result as to whether or not any injury is inflicted upon the victim.

The Courts may deduce such intent from the conduct of the accused and surrounding circumstances of the offence, including the nature of weapon used or the nature of injury, if any. The manner in which occurrence took place may enlighten more than the prudential escape of a victim.  It is thus not necessary that a victim shall have to suffer an injury dangerous to his life, for attracting Section 307 IPC.

In order to ascertain whether the requirement of ‘motive’ is indispensable for proving the charge of attempt to murder under Section 307 IPC, the Court explained that ‘motive’ is distinct from ‘object and means’ which innervates or provokes an action. Unlike ‘intention’, ‘motive’ is not the yardstick of a crime. A lawful act with an ill motive would not constitute an offence but it may not be true when an unlawful act is committed with best of the motive.

In Shivaji Genu Mohite v. State of Maharashtra, (1973) 3 SCC 219 and Bipin Kumar Mondal vs. State of West Bengal,  (2010) 12 SCC 91, the Supreme Court had held that,

“in case the prosecution is not able to discover an impelling motive, that could not reflect upon the credibility of a witness proved to be a reliable eyewitness. Evidence as to motive would, no doubt, go a long way in cases wholly dependent on circumstantial evidence. Such evidence would form one of the links in the chain of circumstantial evidence in such a case. But that would not be so in cases where there are eyewitnesses of credibility, though even in such cases if a motive is properly proved, such proof would strengthen the prosecution case and fortify the court in its ultimate conclusion. But that does not mean that if motive is not established, the evidence of an eyewitness is rendered untrustworthy.”

The Court, hence, concluded that absence of motive alone cannot abjure the guilt of the accused under Section 307 of IPC.

[Surinder Singh v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1135, decided on 26.11.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Surya Kant

Know Thy Judge | Justice Surya Kant

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