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The differentiating issue between the homicide and culpable murder not amounting to homicide

The differentiating factor between the murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder written by Shatakshi Kakkar student of Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA



In the instant case, the appellant after having a fight with her sister-in-law left the house with her three minor children and jumped into the well. After some time she was found on the edge of the well and her three children dead inside the well by some villagers. Though there is no eye-witness of the appellant jumping in the well herself, her own statement along with that of her husband and sister-in-law is conclusive proof itself of the fact that she jumped into the well on her own. The Trial Court held her guilty for murder under Section 300 but no clause was decided. Hence, the present appeal is made to the Madhya Pradesh High Court.


The issue before the Court was to decide whether or not the appellant is guilty of the offense of murder (Sec 300 of IPC) of her three children as well as of attempted suicide (Sec 309 of IPC)?


The Sessions Judge in the following case found her guilty under Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code but didn’t give the clause under which she was charged. When the matter came to the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the judge decided that Gyarsibai should be held guilty under clause 4 of Section 300. The other three clauses of Section 300 i.e. 1, 2, and 3 deal with cases when the murder of some party is done with the “intention” of doing so but in the present case it can be clearly seen that no intention exists on the part of Gyarsibai to murder her children and hence she cannot be held liable under any other clause of Section 300.

The bone of contention that lies here is whether she should be charged under Section 299 of IPC which deals with ‘culpable homicide’ or Section 300(4) which deals with ‘murder’. The third sub-part of Section 299 states that when death is caused ‘with the knowledge that by such act he is likely to cause death’ is termed as ‘culpable homicide’ and Section 300(4) states that a person is guilty of murder if he had the knowledge that his act is ‘imminently dangerous’ and moreover that the act was committed ‘without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury’. In the present case it is clearly established through facts and evidence that Gyarsibai should be considered as a sane person and every sane person ‘knows’ that the act of jumping into the well will result in death only. Moreover, no solid evidence has been found or revealed which could establish the fact that jumping in the well with her children was the only way to save herself from her sister-in-law’s harassment hence the essential element of ‘having no valid excuse’ is ticked as well and therefore she is rightly held liable under Section 300(4) of the IPC.

Moreover, the facts and evidence are straightforward to hold Gyarsibai liable for the attempt to suicide as well. But the judges found that the punishment of murder as per Section 302 would be too rigorous for her and hence only awarded her the imprisonment of only 6 months under Section 309 i.e. Attempt to Suicide.


So, through this case as well as through the case of Emperor v. Dhirajia [ILR (1940) All 647] the differentiating factor between Section 299 (3rd part) and Section 300(4) is highlighted. While both the section focus on ‘knowledge’ of the accused, there lies a slight difference between them. The ‘knowledge’ factor differentiates them from the rest of Section 299 and all the other 3 clauses of Section 300 but what differentiates from one other is the phrase ‘without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury’. This phrase of Section 300 states that the accused did the erroneous act of which he had knowledge that it will either cause the death of the victim or some serious bodily injury without any excuse and valid reason, he could have resorted to some other mean but still, he chose to do that particular act. While under Section 299 on the other hand, the accused does know that his act is dangerous and is likely to cause death to the particular individual but he/she still undertake it because they have no other choice other than to perform that act.

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