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Section 300 (3) of The Indian Penal Code has been a very interesting provision of the Indian Criminal Law. It is very fascinating to see the development of the reasoning behind application of this section in murder cases. Especially after Virsa Singh's case in 1958, the law was more or less cleared on this point and it became a landmark judgment, which was followed in many subsequent similar cases. This paper is an attempt to find out the condition before Virsa Singh's case, to analyse it and to look at the condition and the approach of courts applying the ratio of this case in future judgments. Attention has also been paid to the intent requirement by this section.
Section 300 (3): A General Overview
The section provides that, culpable homicide is murder if the act by which death is caused:
Is done with an 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. For cases to fall within Clause (3), it is not necessary that the offender intended to cause death, so long as the death ensues from the intentional bodily injury or injuries sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature.
Situation before 1958
Situation before 1958 and attitude of courts in application of s. 300(3) was somewhat uncertain. In the case of Chamru Budhwa Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh after an exchange of abuse accused dealt a blow on the head of the deceased with the lathi. After that 2nd appellant dealt another blow to the deceased, the injury inflicted proved fatal and both the Courts below came to the conclusion that the Appellant was guilty of the offence under Section 302 IPC. As per the doctor the injury inflicted on the head was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. The Supreme Court was of the view that it appears that the crime was committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel thus bringing the case within Exception 4 thereto with the result that the offence committed was culpable homicide not amounting to murder. In another case of Willie (William) Slaney vs. The State of Madhya Pradesh , William was on terms of intimacy with sister of deceased. The brother did not like their intimacy. On the evening of the day of the occurrence, there was a heated exchange of words. The accused gave one blow on his head with a hockey stick with the result that his skull was fractured. He died in the hospital ten days later. The doctor thought that injury was only likely to cause death. In the opinion of court, the appellant could hardly be presumed to have had this special knowledge that the blow was sufficient to cause death at the time he struck the blow. So the offence falls under the second part of section 304 of IPC. While it has been made clear in Virsa Singh's case that such knowledge is not necessary.
The approach of the court in the above mentioned cases seems, that more reliance was placed on the nature and seriousness of injury rather than the intention to cause such injury. It is very evident when judge in Slaney's case says that, All blows on the head do not necessarily cause death. The approach has been to find out whether the ingredient namely the intention to cause the particular injury is present or not and it is held that circumstances like sudden quarrel in a fight or when the deceased intervenes in such a fight, would create a doubt about the ingredient of intention as it cannot definitely be said in such circumstances that the accused aimed the blow at a particular part of the body.
It could be concluded safely, that earlier the courts first searched the intention to kill and in its absence the act can be murder only if that injury would be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
The Landmark Judgment Virsa Singh vs. State of Punjab AIR 1958 SC 465
Facts: The appellant was allegedly guilty of the murder of one Khem Singh. There was only one injury on his person, which was a result of a spear thrust. The doctor said that the injury was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
Medical Report: The injury was a punctured wound 2- x transverse in direction on the left side of the abdominal wall in the lower part of the iliac region just above the inguinal canal. Three coils of intestine were also coming out.
The appellant was convicted by the first court under section 302 IPC and his conviction was upheld by the High Court. He was granted special leave to the Supreme Court on the following:
Issue: On the finding of High Court what offence is made out as having been committed by the petitioner
Arguments advanced: It was argued with much circumlocution that the facts set out above do not disclose an offence of murder because the prosecution has not proved that there was an intention to inflict a bodily injury that was sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature.
Reasoning and decision: The court said that actual reading of this section infers that it is not enough to prove that the injury found to be present is sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature but it must be in addition shown that the injury found to be present was the same 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.
The court gave a four-point test which prosecution must observe and prove in order tobring the case under this section:
i) First, it must establish, quite objectively, that a bodily injury is present;
ii) Secondly, the nature of the injury must be proved; These are purely objective investigations.
iii) 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,
iv) 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, thirdly.
This four point test is applied in many such subsequent cases . It is mainly after this judgment that clear guidelines were provided for the application of this section. These observations of Vivian Bose, J. have become locus classicus. The test laid down by Virsa Singh's case for the applicability of clause "Thirdly" is now ingrained in our legal system and has become part of the rule of law. Under clause thirdly of Section 300 IPC, culpable homicide is murder, if both the following conditions are satisfied: i.e. (a) that the act which causes death is done with the intention of causing death or is done with the intention of causing a bodily injury; and (b) that the injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. It must be proved that there was an intention to inflict that particular bodily injury which, in the ordinary course of nature, was sufficient to cause death, viz. that the injury found to be present was the injury that was intended to be inflicted.
Also the court observed that accused can only escape if it can be shown, or reasonably deduced that the injury was accidental or otherwise unintentional. A case in which such a defence was uphleld and accused was exonerated of the charge of murder was Khuman Singh vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (2004). The facts were that the villagers from different villages were assembled in connection of the flag ceremony of a temple. The stick of Khuman Singh, appellant struck the one who was beating the drum. An altercation took place and parties were pacified by intervention of the deceased. After ceremony was over, the complainant party was chased by the appellants. The deceased was overpowered and was assaulted with lathi blows and stones. Some accused also trampled on his body and he died on the spot. According to the medical report none of the injuries was sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. The death had actually resulted due injury to the liver caused by fracture of rib bone, which punctured the liver.
Decision: The court observed that what happened was not premeditated and appellants were not prepared for the incident. The injuries were inflicted by lathies and stones. Medical report showed that it was the ribs that had entered the liver and if liver was not damaged death would not have resulted. This injury was not one which was intended by the court and it was at best accidental and therefore s. 300 (3) is not attracted.
In Rajwant Singh v. State of Kerala, the appellants had conspired together to burgle the safe of Base Supply Office where a large amount of money was usually kept for distribution on pay-day. In the night they caught hold of the deceased who was the Lt. Commander. They covered his mouth with adhesive plaster and tied a handkercheif over it and plugged his nostrils with cotton soaked in chloroform. They has tied his hands and legs with rope and deposited him in a shallow drain. They were unable to burgle the safe and were recognised but they were succesful in runnig away. Next morning the dead body was recovered. The cause of death was asphysxiation. It was argued that the act did not constitute murder because the accused must have known that what they were doing was likely to kill. The intention was not to kill but to make them unconcious while they took away the money.
Decision: The court held that the case is covered by third clause of s. 300. All the acts were deliberate acts which were pre-planned and they thus satisfied the subjective test involved in the clause. Also the act considered objectively were sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature. The ordinary course of nature was not interrupted with any intervening act of another and whatever happened was the result of the acts of assailants and nothing else. It was hardly necessary to prove more than the acts themselves and the causal connection between the acts and the end result. The sufficiency of the injury was objectively established by the nature and quality of the acts taken with the consequence which was intimately related to the acts.
The intent requirement
The ingredient 'intention' in that Clause is very important and that gives a clue in a given case whether offence involved is murder or not . Supreme Court also discussed the intent element required for this section in great detail. The argument that prosecution must prove an intention to inflict only that kind of injury that was sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature was found to be fallacious by the court. It was argued that the intention that the section requires must be related, not only to the bodily injury inflicted, but also to the clause, "and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.? Court totally disagreed with such an argument calling it to be a fallacious argument. According to the rule laid down in Virsa Singh's case, even if the intention of accused was limited to the infliction of a bodily injury sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature, and did not extend to the intention of causing death, the offence would be murder. Illustration (c) appended to Section 300 clearly brings out this point.
The court read the clause 3 of section 300 of IPC disjunctively and separating intention being read as linked to the second part in the following way:
If there is an intention to inflict an injury that is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature, then the intention is to kill and in that event, the "thirdly" would be unnecessary because the act would fall under the first part of the section, namely - "If the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death."
In our opinion, the two clauses are disjunctive and separate. The first is subjective to the offender : "If it is done with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person." It must, of course, first be found that bodily injury was caused and the nature of the injury must be established. These are purely objective facts and leave no room for inference or deduction and 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.
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.
So the crux is that what needs to be proved is not that the accused had an intention to inflict the injury that was sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature but that he had an intention to cause the same bodily injury that is found to be present on the body of the deceased. Then it is the later part of the enquiry which is objective in nature to find out that whether the injury was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death or not. Thus, intention is only linked up and is restricted to the causing of the bodily injury and not to the knowledge or intention of causing such bodily injury that is sufficient to cause bodily injury that is sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature. What needs to be proved is that the accused had an intention to cause the same bodily injury found to be present on the person of deceased which was later found to be sufficient to cause death. Such a principle is based on broad lines of common sense because if intention is considered to be of causing an injury which is sufficient to cause death; then any person could always plead that he never had an intention to cause such a injury and it would have been very difficult to prove him wrong.
That is why the court observed that:
Once these four elements are established by the prosecution the offence is murder under s. 300, thirdly. 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. 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 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 licence 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.
It is not a correct approach that intent required is linked up with the seriousness of the injury and that is not what the section requires. The two matters are quite separate an distinct. The question is not whether the prisoner intended to inflict a serious injury or a trivial one but whether he intended to inflict the injury that is proved to be present. If he can show that he did not, or if the totality of the circumstances justify such an inference, then, of course, the intent that the section requires is not proved. But if there is nothing beyond the injury and the fact that the appellant inflicted it, the only possible inference is that he intended to inflict it. Whether he know of its seriousness, or intended serious consequences, is neither here nor there. The question, so far as the intention is concerned, is not whether he intended to kill, or to inflict and injury of particular degree of seriousness, but where he intended or inflict the injury in the 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 distant question and has nothing to do with the question whether the prisoner intended to inflict the injury in question.
Again the Supreme court in the the case of Dhupa Chamar vs. State of Bihar dealt in great detail on the requirement of intention and applicability of this section. In this case, lordships had discussed almost all apt authorities and above-mentioned cases in this regard. They mainly threw light on the question that infliction of single blow, which proved fatal should not be equated with the intention to cause death or an injury sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature.
In this case, there was an incident of assault by fists and slaps between Ramu Chamar and appellant No. 2-Tokha Chamar and due to this reason next day, appellants and their men armed with bhalas, lathies and with brickbats came near the house of Ramu Chamar and started abusing his family members whereupon, villagers arrived there. One of them, a lady, made a protest whereupon appellant No. 1-Dhupa Chamar gave a bhala blow on the left side of her neck and the same was pulled out forcibly from the neck as a result of which she fell down and died instantaneously. Appellant No.2-Tokha Chamar assaulted one other person in the abdomen with bhala as a result of which he died in the hospital.
Decision and reasoning: Under Clause Thirdly the intention to cause that particular injury is a subjective inquiry and when once such intention is established and if the intended injury is found objectively to be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, Clause Thirdly is attracted and it would be murder unless one of the exceptions to Section 300 is attracted. If on the other hand this ingredient of 'intention' is not established or if a reasonable doubt arises in this regard then only it would be reasonable to infer that Clause Thirdly is not attracted and that the accused must be attributed knowledge that in inflicting the injury he was likely to cause death in which case it will be culpable homicide punishable under Section 304 Part II IPC." Keeping in mind the aforesaid principles it appearred to court that the accused persons came armed with deadly weapons and there was an altercation and exchange of hot words whereafter appellant No. 1 assaulted victim with a bhala causing injury on the chest rupturing important blood vessels resulting in her instantaneous death. The above circumstance would show that accused intentionally inflicted the injury and the same would indicate such a state of mind of the appellant-Dhupa Chamar that he aimed and inflicted the injury with deadly weapon. In the absence of evidence or reasonable explanation to show that this appellant did not intend to inflict injury by bhala in the chest with that degree of force sufficient to rupture important blood vessel and cutting of aorta and other artery, it would be perverse to conclude that he did not intend to inflict that injury that he did. When once the ingredient 'intention' is established then the offence would be murder as the intended injury was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. Therefore, inevitable conclusion would be that appellant committed the offence of murder u/s 300 (3).
Cases at a glance
In Harjindar Singh v. Delhi Administration, appellant was beating one person and the deceased intervened to rescue. When the three were grappling with each other appellant took out the knife and stabbed the deceased once. Cause of death was shock and haemorrhage from injury to femoral vessels in the thigh. The appellant did not use the knief when he was engaged in the fight. The deceased came intervening in a crouching position to separate the two. Therefore it can't be said with any definiteness that the appellant aimed a blow at this particular part knowing that it would cut the artery. He was convicted under 304 I of IPC.
In Tholan v. St. of Tamil Nadu, the accused and deceased had no enimity but were remonstrating with each other on some point. In the course, accused took out a knife and stabbed deceased on right of side of chest. Deceased succumbed to the injury and died. Cause of death was stated to be shock and haemorrhage on account of stab injury and sufficient to cause death in ordinary course of nature. Court concluded that there was no dispute, quarrel or malice of accused with deceased and presence of deceased was wholly accidental. Everything happened on the spur of the moment and requisite intention cannot be attributed to the accused. Thus he was held guilty for committing an offence under 304 II of IPC.
In Jaiprakash v. State (Delhi Administration), the appellant was having illicit relations with wife of the deceased and his visits to her house were resented and objected by him. On the day of occurrence, the accused visited the house in absence of deceased armed with a kirpan. When deceased came and objected to his presence there was only an altercation and exchange of hot words and not a fight. Thereupon, he took out the kirpan and stabbed on the chest of the deceased resulting in his instantaneous death. The above circumstances would show that the accused intentionally inflicted that injury and though it may not be premeditated one. All such circumstances certainly indicated a state of mind namely that he aimed and inflicted the injury with a deadly weapon. As observed in Virsa Singh's case, in the absence of evidence or reasonable expalnation to show that he did not intend to stab on the chest with the degree of force sufficient to penetrate the heart, it would be perverse to conclude that he did not intend to inflict the injury that he did. When once ingredient ?intention? is established then the offence would be murder if injury is found to be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
In case of Abdul Waheed Khan and Ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh, three accused rushed to the deceased and began stabbing him indiscriminately with their three knives, while another accused tried to snatch the bag containing the cash. Further knife blows were given by the three accused persons till the deceased collapsed. They away the cash bag and all of them fled. the three appellants had indiscriminately stabbed the deceased, though their object was to rob him. the doctor said that the stab wounds as well as the head injury are individually sufficient to cause death". The stab wounds came first and then the possible fall. Taking into account the totality of the circumstances the accused was held guilty for murder.
Where murder is caused by a single blowIn the case of Jai Prakash, the Court referred to the decisions of this Court in the cases of Kulwant Rai v. State of Punjab, (1981), Randhir Singh v. State of Punjab (1981), Gurmail Singh v. State of Punjab (1982), Jagtar Singh v. State of Punjab (1983), Tholan v. State of Tamil Nadu (1984), the court observed that:
In all these cases, injury by a single blow was found to be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. The Supreme Court took into consideration the circumstances such as sudden quarrel, grappling etc. as mentioned above only to assess the state of mind namely whether the accused had the necessary intention to cause that particular injury i.e. to say that he desired expressly that such injury only should be the result. It is held in all these cases that there was no such intention to cause that particular injury as in those circumstances, the accused could have been barely aware i.e. only had knowledge of the consequences. These circumstances under which the appellant happened to inflict the injury it is felt or at least a doubt arose that all his mental faculties could not have been roused as to form an intention to achieve the particular result.
In the case of Mahesh Balmiki alias Munna v. State of M.P. (1999), accused gave a single fatal blow with knife on the chest on the left side of the sternum between the costal joint of the 6th and 7th ribs, fracturing both the ribs and track of the wound going through the sternum, pericardium, anterior and posterior after passing the ribs and thereafter entering the liver and perforating a portion of stomach. There, conviction under Section 302 of the Penal Code was upheld by the High Court and when appeal was brought to Supreme Court by Special Leave, while confirming the conviction under Section 302, court observed:
"Adverting to the contention of a single blow, it may be pointed out that there is no principle that in all cases of a single blow Section 302 IPC is not attracted. A single blow may, in some cases, entail conviction under Section 302 IPC, in some cases under Section 304 IPC and in some other cases under Section 326 IPC. The question with regard to the nature of offence has to be determined on the facts and in the circumstances of each case. The nature of the injury, whether it is on the vital or non-vital part of the body, the weapon used, the circumstances in which the injury in caused and the manner in which the injury is inflicted are all relevant factors which may go to determine the required intention or knowledge of the offender and the offence committed by him."
After the judgment in Virsa Singh's case, the situation became very clear. Determining the intention becomes important in determining, whether the act is murder or not. Determination of intention becomes difficult where a single blow has caused murder. But it is not a rule that, where it is caused by a single blow there cannot be any intention to cause murder and would fall under culpable homicide. Courts while determining the required intention give due caution to the circumstances in which the incident occurred.
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org / Print This Article
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