We advise you to read this article if you already have read Section 300 of IPC.
Section 300 of the IPC categorized the situations under which a culpable homicide amounts to murder. Among these situations, 3rd clause of section 300 provides that,
” 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.”
PROCESS OF ENQUIRY
1. Subjective and Objective Facts
First, Cause of bodily injury and the nature of the injury must be established, that is to say, whether the injury is on the leg or the arm or the stomach, how deep it penetrated, whether any vital organs were cut and so forth. These are purely objective facts and leave no room for inference or deduction: to that extent the enquiry is objective;
but when it comes to the question of intention, that is subjective to the offender and it must be proved that he had an intention to cause the bodily injury that is found to be present.
2. Bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient to cause death
Once that is found, the enquiry shifts to the next clause- ” and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.”
The first part of this is descriptive of the earlier part of the section, namely, the infliction of bodily injury with the intention to inflict it,
that is to say, if the circumstances justify an inference that a man’s intention was only to inflict a blow on the lower part of the leg, or some lesser blow, and it can be shown that the blow landed in the region of the heart by accident, then, though all injury to the heart is shown to be present, the intention to inflict ail injury in that region, or of that nature, is not proved.
In that case, the first part of the clause does not come into play.
But once it is proved that there was an intention to inflict the injury that is found to be present, then the earlier part of the clause ” and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted ” is merely descriptive.
All it means is that it is not enough to prove that the injury found to be present is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature; it must in addition be shown that the injury is of the kind that falls within the earlier clause, namely, that the injury found to be present was the injury that was intended to be inflicted.
Whether it was sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature is a matter of inference or deduction from the proved facts about the nature of the injury and has nothing to do with the question of intention.
3. Whether there was an intention to strike at a vital or a dangerous spot?
In considering whether the intention was to inflict the injury found to have been inflicted, the enquiry necessarily proceeds on broad lines as,
for example, whether there was an intention to strike at a vital or a dangerous spot, and whether with sufficient force to cause the kind of injury found to have been inflicted.
It is, of course, not necessary to enquire into every last detail as, for instance, whether the prisoner intended to have the bowels fall out, or whether he intended to penetrate the liver or the kidneys or the heart. Otherwise, a man who has no knowledge of anatomy could never be convicted, for, if he does not know that there is a heart or a kidney or bowels, be cannot be said to have intended to injure them.
Of course, that is not the kind of enquiry. It is broad-based and simple and based on common sense: the kind of enquiry that ” twelve good men and true could readily appreciate and understand.”
ESSENTIALS TO PROVE
To put it shortly, the prosecution must prove the following facts before it can bring a case under s. 300, 3rdly –
First, it must establish, quite objectively, that a bodily injury is present;
Secondly, the nature of the injury must be proved; These are purely objective investigations.
Thirdly, it must be proved that there was an intention to inflict that particular bodily injury, that is to say, that it was not accidental or unintentional, or that some other kind of injury was intended. Once these three elements are proved to be present, the enquiry proceeds further and,
Fourthly, it must be proved that the injury of the type just described made up of the three elements set out above is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. This part of the enquiry is purely objective and inferential and has nothing to do with the intention of the offender.
Once these four elements are established by the prosecution (and, of course, the burden is on the prosecution throughout) the offence is murder under s. 300, 3rdly.
It does not matter that there was no intention to cause death. It does not matter that there was No intention even to cause an injury of a kind that is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature (not that there is any real distinction between the two). It does not even matter that there is no knowledge that an act of that kind will be likely to cause death.
Once the intention to cause the bodily injury actually found to be present is proved, the rest of the enquiry is purely objective and the only question is whether, as a matter of purely objective inference, the injury is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
No one has a license to run around inflicting injuries that are sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature and claim that they are not guilty of murder. If they inflict injuries of that kind, they must face the consequences; and they can only escape if it can be shown, or reasonably deduced that the injury was accidental or otherwise unintentional.
The question, so far as the intention is concerned, is not whether he intended to kill, or to inflict an injury of a particular degree of seriousness, but whether he intended to inflict the injury in question; and once the existence of the injury is proved the intention to cause it will be presumed unless the evidence or the circumstances warrant an opposite conclusion.
But whether the intention is there or not is one of fact and not one of law. Whether the wound is serious or otherwise, and if serious, how serious, is a totally separate and distinct question and has nothing to do with the question whether the prisoner intended to inflict the injury in question.
If it can be proved, or if the totality of the circumstances justifies an inference, that the prisoner only intended a superficial scratch and that by accident his victim stumbled and fell on the sword or spear that was used, then of course the offence is not murder. But that is not because the prisoner did not intend the injury that he intended to inflict to be as serious as it turned out to be but because he did not intend to inflict the injury in question at all.
His intention in such a case would be to inflict a totally different injury. The difference is not One of law but one of fact; and whether the conclusion should be one way or the other is a matter of proof, where necessary, by calling in aid all reasonable inferences of fact in the absence of direct testimony. It is not one for guess-work and fanciful conjecture.
Virsa Singh vs The State Of Punjab, 1958 AIR 465, 1958 SCR 1495