Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of KM Joseph and S. Ravindra Bhat*, JJ has reiterated the factors to be considered while deciding the question of whether in a given case, a homicide is murder, punishable under Section 302 IPC, or culpable homicide, of either description, punishable under Section 304 IPC.

The Court explained that the use of the term “likely” in several places in respect of culpable homicide, highlights the element of uncertainty that the act of the accused may or may not have killed the person. Section 300 IPC which defines murder, however refrains from the use of the term likely, which reveals absence of ambiguity left on behalf of the accused. The accused is for sure that his act will definitely cause death.

“It is often difficult to distinguish between culpable homicide and murder as both involve death. Yet, there is a subtle distinction of intention and knowledge involved in both the crimes. This difference lies in the degree of the act. There is a very wide variance of degree of intention and knowledge among both the crimes.”

The following two cases are noteworthy for understanding the difference between the two terms:

State of Andhra Pradesh v Rayavarapu Punnayya, 1976 (4) SCC 382

In the said case, the Court noticed that the confusion between “murder” and “culpable homicide not amounting to murder” is caused, if courts losing sight of the true scope and meaning of the terms used by the legislature in these sections, allow themselves to be drawn into minute abstractions. Hence, the safest way of approach to the interpretation and application of these provisions seems to be to keep in focus the keywords used in the various clauses of Sections 299 and 300.

It explained,

“In the scheme of the 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.”

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Pulicherla Nagaraju v State of Andhra Pradesh, (2006) 11 SCC 444

The Court laid down the considerations that should weigh with courts, in discerning whether an act is punishable as murder, or culpable homicide, not amounting to murder and observed that the Court should proceed to decide the pivotal question of intention, with care and caution, as that will decide whether the case falls under Section 302 or 304 Part I or 304 Part II.

“Many petty or insignificant matters – plucking of a fruit, straying of cattle, quarrel of children, utterance of a rude word or even an objectionable glance, may lead to altercations and group clashes culminating in deaths. Usual motives like revenge, greed, jealousy or suspicion may be totally absent in such cases. There may be no intention. There may be no premeditation. In fact, there may not even be criminality. At the other end of the spectrum, there may be cases of murder where the accused attempts to avoid the penalty for murder by attempting to put forth a case that there was no intention to cause death.”

Hence, it is for the courts to ensure that the cases of murder punishable under Section 302, are not converted into offences punishable under Section 304 Part I/II, or cases of culpable homicide not amounting to murder are treated as murder punishable under Section 302.

The intention to cause death can be gathered generally from a combination of a few or several of the following, among other, circumstances;

  1. nature of the weapon used;
  2. whether the weapon was carried by the accused or was picked up from the spot;
  3. whether the blow is aimed at a vital part of the body;
  4. the amount of force employed in causing injury;
  5. whether the act was in the course of sudden quarrel or sudden fight or free for all fight;
  6. whether the incident occurs by chance or whether there was any premeditation;
  7. whether there was any prior enmity or whether the deceased was a stranger;
  8. whether there was any grave and sudden provocation, and if so, the cause for such provocation;
  9. whether it was in the heat of passion;
  10. whether the person inflicting the injury has taken undue advantage or has acted in a cruel and unusual manner;
  11. whether the accused dealt a single blow or several blows. The above list of circumstances is, of course, not exhaustive and there may be several other special circumstances with reference to individual cases which may throw light on the question of intention.

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[Mohd. Rafiq v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 731, decided on 15.09.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice S. Ravindra Bhat

Know Thy Judge| Justice S. Ravindra Bhat

For Appellant: Advocate Ritu Gangele

For State: Advocate Gopal Jha

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Allahabad High Court: The Division Bench of B. Amit Sthalekar and Shekhar Kumar Yadav, JJ., held that dying declaration can be acted upon without any corroboration when the Court feels convinced about its trustworthiness.

Appellants filed the instant criminal appeal against the order passed by Additional Sessions Judge whereby appellants have been convicted under Section 302/34 of Penal Code, 1860.

All the appellants except appellant Kamal were convicted under Section 498-A IPC and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment along with fine with default stipulation. Further, all the appellants except appellant Kamal were convicted under Section 3 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment along with fine with default stipulation.

Adding to the above, all the appellants except appellant Kamal were convicted under Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act and sentenced to two years imprisonment along with fine with default stipulation.

Appellant filed the instant bail applications in light of the above-stated.

The factual matrix of the instant case shows that informant alleged that the marriage of his niece was solemnised with accused-appellant Raju son of Jaiprakash. Raju, his mother and father, sister and his friend were continuously torturing and harassing the niece of informant for bringing less dowry and for not giving vehicle in the marriage, and these torturous acts of appellants/applicants were regularly complained to the informant’s side by his niece and for which a case of dowry was also registered and pending between the parties.

It was further added to the allegations that the appellants/applicants took the niece of the informant to her matrimonial home, thereafter, she has been continuously harassed and maltreated again for bringing less dowry, which was also complained by her to the informant and the family members.

It was alleged that the appellants set ablaze the informant’s niece with the intention to kill her and when the informant and his family members got the said information, they took her to the hospital and on enquiry by the informant she narrated that all the appellants set her at ablaze with an intention to kill her.

During the treatment, informant’s niece lost her life.

Appellants Counsel submitted that the dying declaration is not trustworthy because, in the dying declaration, it has not been recorded that the deceased was in a fit state of mind to make the said dying declaration.

AGA for the State placed reliance on the dying declaration recorded by the Executive Magistrate to contend that there is no contradiction or inconsistency in the dying declaration so as to disbelieve the same. It was further submitted that Executive Magistrate in his deposition stated that before recording the dying declaration, he enquired about the mental status of the victim from the Doctor and on being satisfied regarding the fit mental status of the deceased, he proceeded to record the dying declaration and it is not the requirement of law that the Executive Magistrate was under an obligation to record his satisfaction that the deceased was in a fit state of mind to make the dying declaration.

AGA also placed reliance on the Supreme court decision in Laxman v. State of Maharashtra, (2002) 6 SCC 710, wherein it was explained that medical certification is not a sine qua non for accepting the Dying Declaration.

Decision

Bench on prima facie reading of dying declaration noted that the deceased gave the dying declaration before the Executive Magistrate, who after having been satisfied that she was in a fit state of mind in giving the statement, recorded her dying declaration.

In the dying declaration, deceased categorically stated the manner in which she was burnt by the appellants.

It is trite law that the court should not be too technical when it feels convinced about the trustworthiness of the dying declaration, which inspires confidence, can be acted upon, without any corroboration.

Bench found a case against the appellants and hence bail was rejected.[Babli v. State of U.P., 2020 SCC OnLine All 1461, decided on 09-12-2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, JJ has held that there is no hard and fast rule that in a case of single injury Section 302 IPC would not be attracted and that the same depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case.

“The nature of injury, the part of the body where it is caused, the weapon used in causing such injury are the indicators of the fact whether the accused caused the death of the deceased with an intention of causing death or not.”

In the case before the Court, it was argued that s it is a case of a single blow, Section 302 IPC shall not be attracted. Rejecting the contention, the Court said that it cannot be laid down as a rule of universal application that whenever the death occurs on account of a single blow, Section 302 IPC is ruled out. The fact situation has to be considered in each case, the events which precede will also have a bearing on the issue whether the act by which the death was caused was done with an intention of causing death or knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without intention to cause death. It is the totality of the circumstances which will decide the nature of offence.

It was further argued that the motive alleged for the incident is prior to four months of the incident in question and, therefore, as such, the prosecution has failed to establish and prove the motive for the accused to kill the deceased.

The Court rejected this contention as well and said that

“motive is not an explicit requirement under the Penal Code, though “motive” may be helpful in proving the case of the prosecution in a case of circumstantial evidence.”

Considering that in the case at hand there were three eye­witnesses to the incident and the prosecution has been successful in proving the case against the accused by examining those three eye­witnesses and therefore, as rightly observed by the High Court, assuming that the alleged motive is the incident which had taken place prior to four months or the prosecution has failed to prove the motive beyond doubt, the same shall not be fatal to the case of prosecution.

Considering the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case and more particularly that the accused inflicted the blow with a weapon like knife and he inflicted the injury on the deceased on the vital part of the body, the Court held that it is to be presumed that causing such bodily injury was likely to cause the death.  Therefore, the case would fall under Section 304 Part I of the IPC and not under Section 304 Part II of the IPC.

[Stalin v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 723, decided on 09.09.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattisgarh High Court: Prashant Kumar Mishra, J. disposed of a criminal appeal where he altered the conviction of the appellant from the one under Section 302 (punishment for murder) to that under Section 304 Part I (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Penal Code.

The appellant was convicted for the murder of her sister-in-law. The appellant had developed a fancy for the deceased. The marriage of the deceased was fixed on the day previous to the incident. On the morning of the day of the incident, the appellant inflicted axe blow on the deceased in the field. She went to her house and after some time she was taken to the police station where she registered FIR. After that, she was taken to the hospital but she died on the way. The appellant was tried and convicted by the trial court for the offence of murder punishable under Section 302. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed the present appeal.

The High Court noted that the deceased having died immediately after lodging FIR, it was required to dwell on the legal character of the said FIR, as to whether the same was admissible in evidence as dying declaration. Relying on Dharam Pal v. State of U.P., (2008) 17 SCC 337, the Court observed: “The legal position is therefore well settled that the FIR lodged by the deceased would attain the character and legal status of dying declaration if the victim dies before his/her examination in the Court.” Considering the same, the Court upheld the finding that the appellant committed the act that resulted in the death of the deceased.

However, the Court considered medical opinion of the doctor who conducted the post-mortem on the deceased, who stated that the deceased would have been saved if she would have been administered treatment immediately after the incident. The relatives of the deceased committed mistake by taking her first to the police station, rather taking her to the hospital. Considering such mitigating circumstances, the High Court altered the conviction of the appellant mentioned above. Also, the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to him by the trial court was reduced to 10 years, as already undergone by the appellant.[Ram Kumar v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2019 SCC OnLine Chh 83, decided on 22-07-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Bench of A.S. Oka and A.S. Gadkari, JJ. modified the judgment of trial court and altered the appellant’s conviction under Section 302 (punishment for murder) to Section 326 IPC (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means).

The deceased, Farukh Shaikh had two wives. He doubted that the appellant and his cousin Saddam (co-accused who was a juvenile) had affairs with his wives. The appellant and Saddam were accused of having injuries to Farukh by giving him blows with a wooden log and stick. Thereafter, Farukh was admitted to Civil Hospital. Dr Appasaheb Ingale, the expert Surgeon informed Farukh’s relatives that his condition was serious who were not willing to continue with his treatment in Civil Hospital. They shifted Faruk to a Neurosurgical Centre against medical advice where he developed a cardiac arrest and expired. The appellant was tried and convicted for murder under Section 302. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant filed the present appeal.

Dr Yug Mohit Chaudhary, counsel for the appellant submitted that the nature of injuries got aggravated by shifting Farukh against medical advice and the real cause of death was not “head injury” but “cardiac arrest”. Per contra, J.P. Yagnik, Additional Public Prosecutor supported the judgment of the trial court.

The question before the High Court was —“what offence the appellant had actually committed?”

The High Court relied heavily on the statement of Dr Ingale who stated that Farukh died due to “cardiac arrest”. According to the Court, “there are so many reasons to develop a cardiac arrest”. The Court found it difficult to hold that Farukh died due to assault caused by the appellant and Saddam. The Court observed, “In view of the evidence of Dr Appasaheb V. Ingale, it is clear that it is due to the causation i.e. shifting of Farukh Shaikh from Civil Hospital, Sangli to another hospital of Dr Sanjeev M. Kukarni, the patient ultimately expired due to ‘cardiac arrest’. As noted earlier, there is no direct co-relation of the head injury with the said cardiac arrest in view of admission given by Dr Sanjeev M. Kukarni.” Thus, the Court held, that the appellant was liable for causing grievous hurt to Farukh and his act would fall within the ambit of Section 326 and he could not be held guilty under Section 302. The impugned judgment was accordingly modified. [Akram Khalil Ahmed Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 333, decided on 27-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of B.R. Gavai and Sarang V. Kotwal JJ., addressed a Criminal Appeal by setting aside the order of conviction and sentence in view of considering the matter in the purview of ‘benefit of doubt’.

In the present matter, the Appellant was convicted under Sections 376 (f) and 302 IPC for committing the rape of a 6-year-old child and murder thereafter. In accordance to the FIR lodged by the victim’s father. The appellant was found to be sleeping beside the deceased. The deceased was found with blood and injuries to her private parts.

While noting the facts of the case, the High Court found that the post-mortem report states the final cause of death as ‘death due to shock due to vaginal and anal tear with multiple injuries over body’. Also, the fact to be noted that was found on during the medical examination of the Appellant was that he had no injuries on his person with no blood or semen on any of the clothing of the appellant. There was no evidence of semen or vaginal fluid been taken off by washing from the private parts of the appellant.

Therefore, the case of prosecution lied only in the arena of ‘suspicion’ and the chain of circumstances against the appellant seemed to be incomplete, which awarded the appellant ‘benefit of doubt’ by acquitting the appellant in the present matter. [Sandip Ramesh Gaikwad v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 2067, dated 06-07-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of B.R. Gavai and Sarang V. Kotwal, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the judgment passed by the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted under Section 302 IPC.

The allegation against the convict was that he had murdered his wife. On a fateful day, the appellant himself came to the Police Station and informed about the death of the deceased. The investigation was completed and charge-sheet was filed. The Sessions Judge framed the charge against the appellant under Section 302 to which he pleaded not guilty. The appellant was tried and convicted under the said section. The appellant challenged the decision of Sessions Judge while submitting that the deceased had committed suicide.

The High Court perused the material available on record including the post-mortem report and evidence of the medical expert. It was noted that motive behind the commission of the crime could be gathered from the FIR; the deceased was not doing the work as told by the appellant, they had a regular quarrel, and the appellant was angry with her. The Court was of the view that the nature of injuries and the deposition of the medical expert proved beyond reasonable doubt that the death was homicidal. Death of the deceased occurred in suspicious circumstances. The appellant gave an explanation that the deceased committed suicide, which was wholly falsified by the medical evidence. Relying on the Supreme Court decision in Sharad Birdichand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, (1984) 4 SCC 116: 1984 SCC (Cri) 487, the High Court held that a non-explanation or a false explanation given by the accused can be used to fortify the finding of guilt already recorded; the false explanation by the appellant was an additional circumstance in fortifying his guilt.  Thus, the appeal was dismissed. [Nazim Rashid Tamboli v. State of Maharashtra,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1423, dated 28-06-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Vipin Sanghi and P.S. Teji, JJ. dismissed a criminal appeal filed under Section 374 CrPC against the order passed by the trial court whereby the appellant was convicted for an offence punishable under Section 302.

The appellant was convicted for the murder of a lady by stabbing her with a knife and was sentenced to undergo life imprisonment by the trial court. The appellant challenged the said order in the appeal to the High Court submitting that he was having an illicit relationship with the deceased. On the day of the incident, the husband of the appellant caught both of them red-handed and had a fight with the appellant which resulted in the death of the deceased. In the alternative, learned counsel for the appellant suggested that even if the accused was held guilty, his case would fall under Section 304 Part II and not under Section 302 IPC.

The High Court perused the record and held that the impugned order required no interference. The Court observed that to bring a case under Exception 4 to Section 302, it has to be established that the act was committed without premeditation, in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel, without the offender having taken undue advantage and not having acted in a cruel or unusual manner. However in the present case, based on examination of the weapon used, the severity of blows, etc., the Court held that the benefit of the said exception was not available to the appellant. Further, the incident took place in the room of the deceased, this showed that the appellant carried the knife, which was not a normal kitchen knife, to the room of the deceased to fatally injure her. In the circumstances, the Court held that no interference was necessary with the order of the trial court. The appeal was, therefore, dismissed.  [Ajay v. State,2018 SCC OnLine Del 9633, dated 05-07-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the review petition filed in the Soumya Rape and Murder case where the Court had set aside the death sentence awarded to the accused by the Kerala High Court, the 3-Judge Bench of Ranjan Gogoi, P.C. Pant and U.U. Lalit, JJ issued notice to Justice Markandey Katju, former Supreme Court Judge and requested him to appear in Court in person and participate in the proceedings on 11.11.2016 as to whether the judgment and order dated 15.09.2016 suffers from any fundamental flaw so as to require exercise of the review jurisdiction.

Justice Katju had, in a blog published on Facebook, expressed his views that the Supreme Court has grievously erred in law by not holding Govindaswamy guilty of murder. He had said that the Court had overlooked is that Section 300 IPC, which defines murder, has 4 parts, and only the first part requires intention to kill. If any of the other 3 parts are established, it will be murder even if there was no intention to kill. It is regrettable that the Court has not read Section 300 carefully. The judgment needs to be reviewed in an open court hearing. Taking note of the said post, the Bench said that such a view coming from a retired Judge of this Court needs to be treated with greatest of respect and consideration.

Justice Katju by a post on his Facebook page said that he would be delighted to appear and discuss the matter in open court, but would only like the Judges to consider whether, being a former Supreme Court Judge he is debarred from appearing by Article 124(7) of the Constitution. If the Judges hold that it does not debar him, he would be happy to appear and place his views.

On 15.09.2016, the Court had held that no case of murder was made out against Govindaswamy. It was held that regarding keeping of the deceased in a supine position for commission of sexual assault, the Court held that to hold that the accused is liable under Section 302 IPC what is required is an intention to cause death or knowledge that the act of the accused is likely to cause death. The intention of the accused in keeping the deceased in a supine position was for the purposes of the sexual assault. Further, the fact that the deceased survived for a couple of days after the incident and eventually died in Hospital would also clearly militate against any intention of the accused to cause death by the act of keeping the deceased in a supine position. [Sumathi v. Govindaswamy, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1145, decided on 17.10.2016]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where 5 appellants, convicted under Section 302 read with Section 149 IPC, had approached the Court with the plea of setting aside the order of conviction, the Court, rejected the plea and held that once it is found that the witnesses, who are eye witnesses, were present and they have truthfully narrated the incidence as it happened and their depositions are worth of credence, conviction can be based on their testimonies even if they were related to the deceased.

In the present case, the informant’s uncle was killed while saving him from the appellants who had intended to kill him over a property dispute. The appellants had argued that no independent witnesses were examined in the present case and all the witnesses who were examined were related to the deceased. The Court rejected the said contention and said that in the cross-examination or otherwise it has not even been brought out by the defence that there were other persons at the scene of occurrence who were independent persons. It was further noticed that there were six eye witnesses and three of them were injured eye witnesses, which is a weighty factor to show the actual presence of these witnesses at the scene of occurrence.

The Bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and N. V. Ramana, JJ. said that the credibility and trustworthiness of the eye witnesses could not be shaken by the accused persons. The only requirement, while scrutinising the interested witnesses, is to examine their depositions with greater caution and deeper scrutiny is needed and the same has been done by the Trial Court and the Patna High Court in the present case. [Kamta Yadav v. State of Bihar, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1112, decided on 06.10.2016]