section 304 ipc

Supreme Court: In a case where the bench of BR Gavai and JB Pardiwala, JJ had to alter the conviction under Section 304 Part I of the IPC to Section 304 Part II of the IPC, it lucidly summed up the principles to be considered by the Courts while doing so and held that the first part of Section 304 IPC would apply when there is ‘guilty intention,’ whereas the second part would apply when there is no such intention, but there is ‘guilty knowledge’

Explaining the difference between the two parts of Section 304 IPC, the Court further observed that under the first part, the crime of murder is first established and the accused is then given the benefit of one of the exceptions to Section 300 of the IPC, while under the second part, the crime of murder is never established at all. Therefore, for the purpose of holding an accused guilty of the offence punishable under the second part of Section 304 of the IPC, the accused need not bring his case within one of the exceptions to Section 300 of the IPC.

Principles for altering conviction under Section 304 Part I of the IPC to Section 304 Part II of the IPC

(1) The intention or knowledge of the accused in committing an act determines the offence committed, according to Section 300 of the IPC. If the intention or knowledge falls under Clauses (1) to (4) of Section 300, even a single injury resulting in death can be considered murder.

To illustrate : ‘A’ is bound hand and foot. ‘B’ comes and placing his revolver against the head of ‘A’, shoots ‘A’ in his head killing him instantaneously. Here, there will be no difficulty in holding that the intention of ‘B’ in shooting ‘A’ was to kill him, though only single injury was caused. The case would, therefore, be of murder falling within Clause (1) of Section 300 of the IPC. Taking another instance, ‘B’ sneaks into the bed room of his enemy ‘A’ while the latter is asleep on his bed. Taking aim at the left chest of ‘A’, ‘B’ forcibly plunges a sword in the left chest of ‘A’ and runs away. ‘A’ dies shortly thereafter. The injury to ‘A’ was found to be sufficient in ordinary course of nature to cause death. There may be no difficulty in holding that ‘B’ intentionally inflicted the particular injury found to be caused and that the said injury was objectively sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. This would bring the act of ‘B’ within Clause (3) of Section 300 of the IPC and render him guilty of the offence of murder although only single injury was caused.

(2) Even when the intention or knowledge of the accused may fall within Clauses (1) to (4) of Section 300 of the IPC, the act of the accused which would otherwise be murder, will be taken out of the purview of murder, if the accused’s case attracts any one of the five exceptions enumerated in that section. In the event of the case falling within any of those exceptions, the offence would be culpable homicide not amounting to murder, falling within Part 1 of Section 304 of the IPC, if the case of the accused is such as to fall within Clauses (1) to (3) of Section 300 of the IPC. It would be offence under Part II of Section 304 if the case is such as to fall within Clause (4) of Section 300 of the IPC. Again, the intention or knowledge of the accused may be such that only 2nd or 3rd part of Section 299 of the IPC, may be attracted but not any of the clauses of Section 300 of the IPC. In that situation also, the offence would be culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 of 50 the IPC. It would be an offence under Part I of that section, if the case fall within 2nd part of Section 299, while it would be an offence under Part II of Section 304 if the case fall within 3rd part of Section 299 of the IPC.

(3) If the act of an accused person falls within the first two clauses of cases of culpable homicide as described in Section 299 of the IPC it is punishable under the first part of Section 304. If, however, it falls within the third clause, it is punishable under the second part of Section 304. In effect, therefore, the first part of this section would apply when there is ‘guilty intention,’ whereas the second part would apply when there is no such intention, but there is ‘guilty knowledge’.

(4) Even if single injury is inflicted, if that particular injury was intended, and objectively that injury was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, the requirements of Clause 3rdly to Section 300 of the IPC, are fulfilled and the offence would be murder.

(5) Section 304 of the IPC will apply to the following classes of cases:

(i) when the case falls under one or the other of the clauses of Section 300, but it is covered by one of the exceptions to that Section,

(ii) when the injury caused is not of the higher degree of likelihood which is covered by the expression ‘sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death’ but is of a lower degree of likelihood which is generally spoken of as an injury ‘likely to cause death’ and the case does not fall under Clause (2) of Section 300 of the IPC,

(iii) when the act is done with the knowledge that death is likely to ensue but without intention to cause death or an injury likely to cause death.

(6) The word ‘likely’ means probably and it is distinguished from more ‘possibly’. When chances of happening are even or greater than its not happening, it can be said that the thing will ‘probably happen’. In reaching the conclusion, the court has to place itself in the situation of the accused and then judge whether the accused had the knowledge that by the act he was likely to cause death.

(7) The distinction between culpable homicide (Section 299 of the IPC) and murder (Section 300 of the IPC) has always to be carefully borne in mind while dealing with a charge under Section 302 of the IPC. Under the category of unlawful homicides, both, the cases of culpable homicide amounting to murder and those not amounting to murder would fall. Culpable homicide is not murder when the case is brought within the five exceptions to Section 300 of the IPC. But, even though none of the said five exceptions are pleaded or prima facie established on the evidence on record, the prosecution must still be required under the law to bring the case under any of the four clauses of Section 300 of the IPC to sustain the charge of murder. If the prosecution fails to discharge this onus in establishing any one of the four clauses of Section 300 of the IPC, namely, 1stly to 4thly, the charge of murder would not be made out and the case may be one of culpable homicide not amounting to murder as described under Section 299 of the IPC.

(8) The court must address itself to the question of mens rea. If Clause thirdly of Section 300 is to be applied, the assailant must intend the particular injury inflicted on the deceased. This ingredient could rarely be proved by direct evidence. Inevitably, it is a matter of inference to be drawn from the proved circumstances of the case. The court must necessarily have regard to the nature of the weapon used, part of the body injured, extent of the injury, degree of force used in causing the injury, the manner of attack, the circumstances preceding and attendant on the attack.

(9) Intention to kill is not the only intention that makes a culpable homicide a murder. The intention to cause injury or injuries sufficient in the ordinary cause of nature to cause death also makes a culpable homicide a murder if death has actually been caused and intention to cause such injury or injuries is to be inferred from the act or acts resulting in the injury or injuries.

(10) When single injury inflicted by the accused results in the death of the victim, no inference, as a general principle, can be drawn that the accused did not have the intention to cause the death or that particular injury which resulted in the death of the victim. Whether an accused had the required guilty intention or not, is a question of fact which has to be determined on the facts of each case.

(11) Where the prosecution proves that the accused had the intention to cause death of any person or to cause bodily injury to him and the intended injury is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, then, even if he inflicts a single injury which results in the death of the victim, the offence squarely falls under Clause thirdly of Section 300 of the IPC unless one of the exceptions applies.

(12) In determining the question, whether an accused had guilty intention or guilty knowledge in a case where only a single injury is inflicted by him and that injury is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, the fact that the act is done without premeditation in a sudden fight or quarrel, or that the circumstances justify that the injury was accidental or unintentional, or that he only intended a simple injury, would lead to the inference of guilty knowledge, and the offence would be one under Section 304 Part II of the IPC.

Ruling on facts

In the case at hand, a father-son duo was working in their agricultural field early in the morning. They wanted to transport the crop, they had harvested and for that purpose they had called for a lorry. The lorry arrived, however, the deceased did not allow the driver of the lorry to use the disputed pathway. This led to a verbal altercation between the appellant and the deceased. After quite some time of the verbal altercation, the appellant hit a blow on the head of the deceased with the weapon of offence (weed axe) resulting in his death in the hospital.

Applying the aforesaid principles to the facts of the case and looking at the overall evidence on record, the Court refused to conclude that when the appellant struck the deceased with the weapon of offence, he intended to cause such bodily injury as was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.

“The weapon of offence in the present case is a common agriculture tool. If a man is hit with a weed axe on the head with sufficient force, it is bound to cause, as here, death. It is true that the injuries shown in the post mortem report are fracture of the parietal bone as well as the temporal bone. The deceased died on account of the cerebral compression i.e. internal head injuries.”

In such circumstances, the appellant could only be attributed with the “guilty knowledge” that it was likely to cause an injury which was likely to cause the death. Hence, the Court held that the case on hand does not fall within clause thirdly of Section 300 of the IPC and altered the conviction of the appellant under Section 304 Part I of the IPC to one under Section 304 Part II of the IPC. Resultantly, the appellant was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for a period of five years.

[Anbazhagan v. State, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 857, decided on 20.07.2023]

Judgment authored by Justice JB Pardiwala


Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Petitioner(s) Mr. S. Nagamuthu, Sr. Adv.; Mr. M.P. Parthiban, AOR; Ms. Priyaranjani Nagamuthu, Adv.; Mr. A.S. Vairawan, Adv.; Mr. R. Sudhakaran, Adv.; Mr. G.R. Vikash, Adv.

For Respondent(s) Dr. Joseph Aristotle S., AOR; Ms. Shubhi Bhardwaj, Adv.; Ms. Vaidehi Rastogi, Adv.

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