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Stages In Commission Of Crime

It would be futile to start discussing the Stages in the Commission of Crime' without giving some overview or definition of Crime itself.

Definition of Crime:
Many jurists have defined crime in their own ways some of which are as under:
  • Blackstone defined crime as an act committed or omitted in violation of a public law either forbidding or commanding it.
  • Stephen observed a crime is a violation of a right considered in reference to the evil tendency of such violation as regards the community at large.
  • Oxford Dictionary defines crime as an act punishable by law as forbidden by statute or injurious to the public welfare.

There are four elements which go to constitute a crime, these are:
  • Human Being
  • Mens rea or guilty intention.
  • Actus reus or illegal act or omission
  • Injury to another human being.

Introduction
So far as the law in India is concerned, it is beyond dispute that there are four stages in every crime i.e 1-1-the intention to commit, 2-the preparation to commit, 3-the attempt to commit and
If the third stage is successful, the commission itself. Intention alone or intention followed by preparation are not sufficient to constitute an attempt. But intention followed by preparation followed by any act done towards the commission of the offence is sufficient. Act done towards the commission of the offence are the vital words in this connection.

If an accused intending to administer something capable of causing a miscarriage, administers a harmless substance, it cannot amount to an act towards the commission of the offence of causing miscarriage. He is, therefore, not guilty of an attempt to cause miscarriage.[1]

It is different however, when his failure is not due to any act or omission of his own, but to the intervention of some factor independent of his own volition.

In Regina v. M'Pherson [2], the prisoner was charged with breaking and entering the prosecutor's house and stealing therein certain specified chattels, and was convicted of attempting to steal those chattels. Unknown to him those chattels had been stolen already. Cockbnrn C.J. held that the conviction was wrong because the word attempt clearly conveys with it the idea that if the attempt had succeeded, the offence charged would have been committed. An attempt must be to do that, which, if successful, would amount to the felony charged, but here the attempt never could have succeeded.

In Regina v. M'Pherson [2], the prisoner was charged with breaking and entering the prosecutor's house and stealing therein certain specified chattels, and was convicted of attempting to steal those chattels. Unknown to him those chattels had been stolen already. Cockbnrn C.J. held that the conviction was wrong because the word attempt clearly conveys with it the idea that if the attempt had succeeded, the offence charged would have been committed. An attempt must be to do that, which, if successful, would amount to the felony charged, but here the attempt never could have succeeded.

In Regina v. Cheeseman [3], Lord Blackburn said:
There is no doubt a difference between the preparation antecedent to an offence, and the actual attempt. But if the actual transaction has commenced which would have ended in the crime, if not interrupted, therefore it is clearly an attempt to commit the crime''.

In Queens v. Collins[4], Cockburn C.J., following McPherson's case, held that if a person puts his hand into the pocket of another, with intent to steal what he can find there, and the pocket is empty, he cannot be convicted of an attempt to steal. Because an attempt to commit felony can only, in point of law, be made out where, if no interruption had taken place, the attempt could have been carried out successfully, so as to constitute the offence which the accused is charged with attempting to commit.

Intention
Intention is the first stage in the commission of an offence and known as mental stage. Intention is the direction of conduct towards the object chosen upon considering the motives which suggest the choice. But the law does not take notice of an intention, mere intention to commit an offence not followed by any act, cannot constitute an offence. The obvious reason for not prosecuting the accused at this stage is that it is very difficult for the prosecution to prove the guilty mind of a person.

This stage is Significant progress from mere deliberation towards actual commissuon of the crime. At this stage, the person has made up his mind to actually implement or execute his devious plans. There is an intention to cause harm but he hasn't yet taken any action that manifests his intention. Further, there is no way to prove an intention because even devil can't read a human mind. Thus, this is not considered a crime.

For example Intent on to kill" anyone is not a crime in itself. However, it is an essential ingredient of crime because without intention to cause harm, there can be no crime. On the other hand even a thoughtless act, without any deliberation, can be a crime if there is an intent on to cause harm.

In simple words at this stages A person consolidates his devious ideas and identifies ways of doing it. There is no action taken and there is no harm done to anybody nor is there any intention to cause injury to anybody.

Mens Rea or bad intention is a significant progress from mere deliberation towards actual commission of the crime. At this stage. the person has made up his mind to actually implement or execute his devious plans. There is an intention to cause harm but he hasn't yet taken any action that manifests his intention it is not a crime in itself. But this an essential ingredient of crime because without bad intention to cause harm or do wrong, there can be no crime. Also, even a thoughtless act without any deliberation, can be crime if there is an intention to cause crime.

Intention differs from motive or desire Per Lord Bridge R v Moloney . Thus, a person who kills a loved one dying from a terminal illness, in order to relieve pain and suffering, may well act out of good motives. Nevertheless, this does not prevent them having the necessary intention to kill..

The intention to commit an act must be differentiated from the consequence of an act. The distinction between intention and consequence had come up for consideration before the Supreme court in case arising under TADA[5]

In Niranjan Singh v Jitendra Bhimraj[6] the accused wanted to eliminate two persons by name Raju and Keshav for gaining supremacy in the underworld. They were charged for committing a terrorist offence under TADA. In this context, the Supreme court held that from the evidence it was clear that the intention of the accused person was to eliminate the rivals not to strike terror in the locality.

Intent can be classified in two ways[7]

Direct intent
Majority of cases will be quite straight forward and involve direct Intent.

Direct intent can be said to exist where the defendant embarks on a course of conduct to bring about a result which in fact occurs.
Example; D intends to kill his wife. To achieve that result he gets a knife from the kitchen, sharpens it and then stabs her killing her. The conduct achieves the desired result.

Oblique intent
Oblique Intent is more complex. Oblique intent can be said to exist where the defendant embarks on a course of conduct to bring about a desired result. knowing that the consequence of ms actions will also bring about another result.

Eg D intends to kill his wife. He knows she is going to be on a particular airplane and places a bomb on that airplane He knows that his actions will result in, the death of the other passengers and crew of the airplane even though that may not be part of his desire In carrying out the action ln this situation D is no less culpable in killing the passengers and crew than in killIng his wife as he knows that the deaths will happen as a result of his actions.

Exceptions:
  • Waging War against the state (121-123).
  • Sedation ( section 124).
  • Agreement in criminal conspiracy (section 120 A).
  • Assembling to commit Dacoity( section 402)

Preparation
As this stage, the intention to cause harms starts manifesting itself in the form of physical actions. Preparation consists of arranging or building things that are needed to commit the crime. For example purchasing poison. In general, preparation is not considered a crime because it cannot be proved beyond doubt the goal of the preparation.

For example, purchasing knife with an intention to kill someone is not a crime because it cannot be determined whether the knife was bought to kill someone or to chop vegetables and therefore preparation means to arrange the necessary measures for the commission of the intended criminal act.

Intention alone or the intention followed by a preparation is not enough to constitute the crime. Preparation has not been made punishable because in most of the cases the prosecution has failed to prove that the preparations in the question were made for the commission of the particular crime.

illustration If A purchases a pistol and keeps the same in his pocket duly loaded in order to kill his bitter enemy B, but does nothing more. A has not committed any offence as StilI he is at the stage of preparation and it will be impossible for the prosecution to prove that A was carrying the loaded pistol only for the purpose of killing B.

The law ignores, as general rule, the acts of preparation also. It only interferes when such preparation precludes the possibility of an innocent intention. Only such preparations are punished.
Preperation when punishable (8):
  • Preparation made for waging war against the government of India (sec 122)
  • Preparation made for committing depredation on territories of any power in alliance or at peace with the government of India. (sec 126)
  • Making or selling or being in possession of instrument for counterfeiting coins or government stamps. (ss 233-235 and 257)
  • Possessing counterfeits coins, government stamps, false weight, or measures (ss 242,243,259, and 266,) and
  • Preparation made for committing dacoity. (section 399).

Preparation not Punishable (9)
In general preparation is not punishable, because a preparation apart from its motive would generally be a harmless act. It would be impossible in most cases to show that the preparation was directed to a wrongful end, or was done with an evil motive or intent, and it is not the policy of law to create offences that in most cases it would be impossible to bring home the culprit, or which might lead to harassment of innocent persons.

Besides, a mere preparation would not ordinarily affect the sense of security of the individual intended to be wrong , nor could society be disturbed or Its sense of vengeance aroused by what to all outward appearances would be an innocent act .

Attempt
An attempt to commit a crime is an act done with an intent to commit that crime and forming part of a series of acts which would constitute its actual commission if it were not interrupted. To put the matter differently, attempt is an act done in part execution of a criminal design, amounting to more than mere preparation, but falling short of actual consummation, and possessing, except for failure to consummate, all the elements of a substantive crime; in other words, an attempt consists in the intent to commit a crime, combined with the doing of some act adapted to, but falling short of, its actual commission\ ; it may consequently be defined as that which if not prevented would have resulted in the full consummation of the act attempted (10).

The IPC has dealt with ‘attempt' in a specific and general way. It treats a criminal 'attempt' in four different ways. They are: (11)
  1. The commission of an offence and the attempt to commit it are dealt via. the same section and the extent of punishment prescribed is the name for both.
    The attempt: that fall in this category are:
    1. Offences against the state (55 121, 124, 124-A, 125, 130);
    2. Abetting mutiny (sec 131);
    3. Offences against the public tranquility (sec 152 and l53-A);
    4. Offences against public justice (83 196, 198, 200 and 213);
    5. Offences relating to coins and government stamps (sec 239-241 and 251);
    6. Offences relating to extortion, robbery and dacoity (sec: 385, 387 , 389. 391,3] and 398); and
    7. Criminal trespass (sec 460).
  2. Attempt to commit specific offences are dealt side by side with the offences
    themselves, but separately, and separate punishments are provided for the attempts and the offences.
    The offences which fall in this category are:
    1. Attempt to commit murder (5 307);
    2. Attempt to commit culpable homicide not amounting to murder (5 308); and (iii) attempt to commit robbery (s 393).
  3. Attempt to commit suicide (5 309).
  4. Attempt to commit offences, for which no specific punishment is provided in the IPC (s 511).

section 511 lays down general principles relating to attempts in India. It is a ‘catch all' attempts' penal provision. It reads:
Section 511. Punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment-Whoever attempts to commit offence punishable by this Code with imprisonment for life or imprisonment, or to cause such an offence to be committed, and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence, shall, where no express provision is made by thy Code for the punishment of such attempt, be punished with imprisonment of any description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-half of the imprisonment for life or, as the case may be, one-half of the longest term imprisonment for that offence, or with such fine as is provided for the offence or with both.

Distinction between Attempt and Preparation:
Attempt to commit crime is punishable, whereas preparation is not. This is because preparation would generally be a harmless act, e.g. attempt to commit murder creates a disturbance in the society and the sense of insecurity in an individual, while preparation may not create alarm in society. According to Indian penal Code an attempt is a continuous proceeding which at one stage assumes criminal character.

In Sudhir kumar Mukharjee v. State of W.B (12) , Supreme Court held that, attempt to commit an offence begins when the preparation are complete and the culprit commences to do something with the intention of committing the offence and which is a step forward toward the commission of the offence.

In Abhyanand Mishra v. State of Bihar (13) , Supreme court held that, the movement culprit commences to do an act With the necessary intention, he commences his attempt to commit an offence. Such an act need not be the penultimate act towards the commission of that offence but must be an act during the course of committing that offence.

Test for Distinction:
Five Tests laid down by courts Thus, it is simple to say that an attempt to commit offence begins where preparation to commit it ends, but it is difficult to find out where one ends and the other begins. To solve this riddle various tests have been laid down by the courts.

These are as follows:
  1. Proximity test
  2. Doctrine of Locus Poenitentiae
  3. The Equivocal test

Proximity Test
The proximate rule states that , in order to be designated as an attempt to commit an offence it is necessary that there should be a direct connection between the preparation done and the act that was tried to be accomplish, there should not be a remote connection between the two.

The last possible act test in not applicable in India.
The most usual illustration of this test can be found in R v Taylor(14). The facts of the case are ,a man A purchased a matchstick and he strikes the match standing behind a haystack ,which he extinguished on perceiving that he was watched , was held guilty of attempt to commit arson ohf haystack. But if he had just purchased the matchstick even though he had so much devious intention for burning that place down he would have not been prosecuted.

The underlying principle is based on latin maxim cogitationis poenam nemo patitur which means that no man can safely be punished for his guilty purpose, save so far as they have manifested themselves in overt acts which themselves proclaim the guilt.

In State of Maharashtra vs. Mohd. Yakub(15) and others, two vehicles halted near a bridge at a Creek. Some small and heavy bundles were removed from the Truck and were kept on the ground. The Customs Officers surrounded them. At the same time the sound of the engine of a mechanized sea-craft from the side of the creek was heard by the officers. There were number of ingots lying under saw-dust bags in the Truck. The Supreme Court held that the accused had committed the offence of attempting to export Silver out of India by sea by applying the proximity rule stating that the silver was to be loaded in the ship had the officers not stopped them.

Locus Poenitentiae Rule
This is a rule of situation which states that before the commission of the actual offence, the accused voluntarily gives up the act, he is merely liable for preparation and not attempt.

In Malkiat Singh v. State of Punjab, a truck carrying a paddy was stopped at Samalkha Barrier, a place 32 miles away from Delhi. Evidently, there was no export of paddy within the meaning of para 2(a) f the Punjab Paddy (Export Control) Order, 1959, the Court decided that there was no attempt to commit the offence export. It was merely a preparation.

Distinguishing between attempt and preparation Supreme Court observed that the test of distinction between two is whether the overt acts already done are such that if the offender changes his mind and does not proceed further in its progress, the acts already done would be complete completely harmless.


In the present case, it is quite possible that the appellants may have been warned that they had no licence to carry the paddy and they may have changed their mind at any place between Samalkha Barrier and the Delhi Punjab boundary and not have proceeded further. The act done was not in furtherance of an offence and so the accused were not held liable.

Equivocally Rule
A continuation of the Proximity Rule and Locus Poenitentiae Rule, it states that if what is done indicates unequivocally and beyond the intention of the doer to accomplish the criminal object, then he is liable for attempt under S. 511.

Accomplishment Or Completion
The last stage in the commission of an offence is its accomplishment or completion. If the accused succeeds in his attempt to commit the crime, he will be guilty of the complete offence and if his attempt is unsuccessful he will be guilty of an attempt only.

For example, A fires at B with the intention to kill him, if B dies, A will be guilty for committing the offence of murder and if B is only injured, it will be a case of attempt to murder.

Conclusion
Through this research and finding of my research project of on Stages of Commission of crime it is concluded that the each and every stage must be taken into account for charging someone as an offender or criminally liable and it is essential that all the stages are fulfilled or satisfied simultaneously and if even one stage is absent it will not amount to crime under IPC.

For the commission of crime by person involves four stages viz, formation of the intention or mental element, preparation for commission of crime, acting on the basis of preparation, commission of the act resulting in an event proscribed by law.

End-Notes:
  1. Asgarali Pradhan v Emperor AIR 1933 Cal 893
  2. (1857) Dears & BCC 197
  3. 1973 QB 100
  4. PSA Pillai Criminal law 52(lexis Nexis, New Delhi, 13thedn., 2018)
  5. AIR 1990 SC 1962,(1990) 4SSC 76.
  6. Information Technology Act 2000, India, available at: https://www.mytutor.co.uk/answers/1685/A-Level/Law/What-is-intention-in-the-criminal-law/ (Last Modified october 22, 2018).
  7. PSA Pillai Criminal law 52(lexis Nexis, New Delhi, 13thedn., 2018)
  8. Information Technology Act 2000, India, available at: https://studymoose.com/stages-of-crime-an-overview-essay (Last Modified July 23, 2018).
  9. Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, A Digest of the Criminal law (London 1edn 1887)
  10. PSA Pillai Criminal law 198(lexis Nexis, New Delhi, 13thedn.,2018)
  11. AIR 1973 SC 2655
  12. AIR 1961 SC 1698
  13. 1895 I F& 511 15-1980 3 SCC 57

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