October 4, 2022

Difference between murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder

Section 299 of the IPC provide the definition of Culpable homicide and Section 300 defines the meaning of ‘Murder’. The similarity between the two sections creates confusion in the mind of people. In the case of Reg vs Govinda (1877) ILR 1 Bom 342, Hon’ble Bombay High Court tried to demarcate lines between both sections. Here is the analysis of that Decision.

SECTION 299

A person commits culpable homicide, if the act by which the death is caused is done

(a) With the intention of causing death;

(b) With the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death:

(c) With the knowledge that the act is likely to cause death.

SECTION 300

Subject to certain exceptions, culpable homicide is murder, if the act by which the death is caused is done

(1) With the intention of causing death;

(2) 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;

(3) 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;

(4) 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.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MURDER AND CULPABLE HOMICIDE

  • (a) and (1) show that where there is an intention to kill, the offence is always murder.
  • (c) and (4) appear intended to apply (not necessarily limited) to cases in which there is no intention to cause death or bodily injury.

Furious driving, firing at a mark near a public road, would be cases of this description.

Whether the offence is culpable homicide or murder, depends upon the degree of risk to human life. If death is a likely result, it is culpable homicide; if it is the most probable result, it is murder.

  • The essence of (2) appears be found in the words that the offence is murder, if the offender knows that the particular person injured is likely, either from peculiarity of constitution, or immature age, or other special circumstance, to be killed by an injury which would not ordinarily cause death.

The illustration given in the section is the following:

A, knowing that Z is labouring under such a disease that a blow is likely to cause his death, strikes him with intention of causing bodily injury. Z dies in consequence of the blow. A is guilty of murder, although the blow might not have been sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause the death of a person in a sound state of health.

  • There remain to be considered (b) and (3). The offence is culpable homicide, if the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is likely to cause death; it is murder, if such injury is sufficient in the, ordinary course of nature to cause death.

It is much the same distinction as that between (c) and (4), already noticed. It is a question of degree of probability.

A blow from the fist or a stick on a vital part may be likely to cause death; a wound from a sword in a vital part is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.

CASE ILLUSTRATION

In a case the prisoner, a young man of 18, appears to have kicked his wife, (a girl of 15) and to have struck her several times with his fist on the back. These blows seem to have caused her no serious injury. She, however, fell on the ground, and the prisoner then put one knee on her chest, and struck her two or three times on the face.

One or two of these blows, which, from the medical evidence, to have been violent and to have been delivered with the closed fist, took effect on the girl’s left eye, producing contusion and discoloration. The skull was not fractured, but the blow caused an extravasation of blood on the brain, and the girl died in consequence either on the spot, or very shortly afterwards.

On this state of facts, the Sessions Judge and the assessors have found the prisoner guilty of murder, and he has been sentenced to death.

But Bombay high court held that the offence is culpable homicide, and not murder. Because there was no intention to cause death; nor the bodily injury was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.

But a violent blow in the eye from a man’s fist, while the person struck is lying with his or her head on the ground, is certainly likely to cause death, either by producing concussion or extravasation of blood on the surface or in the substance of the brain.

For these reasons, high court convicted the accused of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, sentenced him to transportation for seven years.

REFERENCE

Reg vs Govinda (1877) ILR 1 Bom 342