Although the Murder of an individual creates a situation where it is not around to bear the consequences of its death since the suffering befalls wholly upon the friends and relatives of the deceased, the reason that killing another human is morally wrong stems from its effect on the deceased and not from its effect on the deceased’s relatives. Negative Utilitarianism requires one to minimize someone’s pain while maximizing the pleasure, such that the act of killing someone is upheld within the tenets of Negative Utilitarianism if and only if the act of killing occurs without causing any pain to the deceased. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Franklin G. Miller argue that the act of killing someone causes the deceased to lose all their abilities to life and livelihood; hence, the act of euthanasia is morally upheld within the medico-legal community since it kills a patient who has already lost all their abilities to life and livelihood. Philosopher Immanuel Kant in the Categorical Imperative held that one should do something that they’d want to be done to themselves, i.e. Immanuel Kant disapproves of killing anyone at the hands of someone since the same would be generally unacceptable by the said someone if they are killed by the person whom they were about to kill. One knows that they do not want to be Murdered; consequently, we extrapolate this thought to realize that akin to us no one wishes to be Murdered; hence, we believe that killing is wrong since we would not want it done upon ourselves.
Between the years of 1526 and 1707, Mohammedan law was used to adjudicate matters like indemnity (tamin), bailment (kafalat), marriage (nikah) and partnership (shirkat) involving Muslims and non-Muslims. The Futuwa Alumgiri sanctioned an order to allow the non-Muslims to govern on the matters of caste, inheritance, religion, succession and wedding using their respective religion-specific personal laws. Various judicial decisions or fatwas by Mohammedan jurists before a Mughal Emperor and jurist-consults (Kazis and Muftis) strengthened the Mohammed law over the Hindu Law. King George I signed the Royal Charter of 1726 to extend the applicability of the Common Law and its related statutes over the three Indian presidencies: Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The shift from the long-existing Mohammedan law to the said Common Law in Fort William, Bengal caused difficulties among the native Indians to navigate through their settling, working and carrying on business as per the now Common Law. The Charter Art, 1833, which allowed for the legislation and enactment of laws in British India, paved the way for the constitution of the first Law Commission in 1834 under the aegis of Lord Babington Macaulay as the chairman of the commission, wherein the commission submitted the first draft of the uniform Indian Penal Code on October 14, 1837, to remove the deficiencies in the existing Mohammedan and Hindu laws. The draft was heavily inspired by the Napoleonic Code and the Louisiana Civil Code, 1835. Multiple amendments and alterations were made to the original draft over the next two decades, wherein the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 not only delayed the adoption of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 but also totted the Law Commission to pass a uniform Common Law over British India. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 came into force in British India on January 01, 1860.
It is worth noting that Chapter XVI, ranging from Sections 299 to 377, talks about the crimes affecting the Human body, wherein the Sections between 299 and 311 talk about the crimes affecting life: attempt to Murder, Murder, Culpable Homicide, Suicide, etcetera.
Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, highlights the offence of Culpable Homicide. If X performs or abstains from performing an act or series of acts with the intention and/ or knowledge of causing either death or bodily harm likely to cause death to Y, then X has committed the offence of Culpable Homicide. For example: if A knows that B is hiding inside an abandoned house and if A induces the demolition team C to break the house with either the intention of causing the death of B or the knowledge that the said demolition will cause the death of B, then C will not be charged with the death of B, rather A will be charged with the offence of Culpable Homicide of B under Section 299. Subsequent investigation of the offence reveals that D was living in the same abandoned house as B; additionally, D died along with B due to the demolition by C. In such situations where the death of D neither was intended by A nor was knowledgeable to A that its actions (inducing C to conduct the demolition of the abandoned house) would likely cause the death of D, A is charged with the death of D under Section 301 as Culpable Homicide since the death of D is of the description of which it would have been if A had caused the death of D whose death he intended or knew itself to be likely to be caused by A’s actions.
X practices archery in his backyard every day, wherein one day during one of his practice sessions, the arrow escapes the backyard and hits Y in his eye leading to his death. In this situation, X cannot be convicted under Section 299 as Culpable Homicide since X not only did not intend to cause any bodily harm to Y but also did not know that his action of practising archery is likely to cause the death of Y.
In the case Kusa Majhi v. The State of Orissa (1985) CriLJ 1460, the deceased was angry with the appellant for not going fishing with other villagers, wherein the appellant became furious and went inside the house to grab an axe to deal some blows on the deceased. Although the blows were not in the region of the head and neck, the victim (the appellant’s mother) died owing to the blows. Justice B. Behera and Justice D. Mohapatra held that the infliction of the blows was done in the spur of the moment without any premeditation without any intention on the side of the appellant to cause the death of the deceased (there was no intention on the side of the appellant to cause bodily harm likely to cause death); hence, the bench concluded that the offence of the appellant was Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder.
Punishment for Culpable Homicide is elucidated under Section 304, wherein life imprisonment is an available punishment for grievous Culpable Homicide; however, the inclusion or exclusion of a fine with the punishment depends on whether the act or series of acts was performed by the wrongdoer with the intention to cause bodily harm/ death of the individual. If the wrongdoer performed or abstained from performing an act or series of acts with the intention of causing either bodily harm or death of the aggrieved party, then the punishment includes a sentence (extending up to ten years) with a fine, and if the act or series of acts was not associated with the said intention on the side of the wrongdoer, rather the performance or abstinence from performing was solely based on the knowledge on the side of the wrongdoer that the act or series of acts is likely to cause either bodily harm or death of the individual, then the punishment includes either a sentence (extending up to ten years) or a fine or both (depending on the nature of the offence). In the archery example, if X is well-aware that the practice of archery is likely to cause either bodily harm or death to anyone around the backyard, then X can be convicted under Section 299 as Culpable Homicide and be punished with either a sentence of no more than ten years or a fine or both under Section 304 (without the intention of X to cause either bodily harm or death of Y).
Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, talks about the offence of Murder under one of four cases: a) The act of Murder is done with the intention of causing death of the deceased (X stabs Y with the intention of killing Y. If Y dies as a consequence of the stabbing, then X has committed the Murder of Y), or b) The wrongdoer causes bodily injury to the individual with the intention of causing the latter’s death while knowing that the said bodily injury is likely to cause death of the individual (If X knows that lead poisoning is fatal for any human being and if X offers lead-laden food to Y with the intention of causing the death of Y and if Y dies as a consequence of lead poisoning, then X has committed the Murder of Y), or c) The wrongdoer intentionally causes bodily injury to the individual, such that the injury is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death of the individual (In the course of fighting, X stabs Y in the spleen sufficient to cause the death of a human being in the ordinary course of nature and if Y dies as a consequences even if X did not intend to cause death of Y, then X has committed the Murder of Y), or d) The wrongdoer performs an act or series of acts knowing that the said act is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probably cause either death or bodily injury of the individual; consequently, the wrongdoer continues to perform the act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing either death or bodily injury of the individual (If X releases a poisonous gas in a residential complex without any excuse for incurring the imminently dangerous risk of the poisonous gas causing death of any individual exposed to the said gas and if Y dies after being exposed to the gas, then X has committed the Murder of Y).
In a nutshell, the Culpable Homicide amounts to Murder if and only if the act or series of acts causing the death of an individual fulfils three conditions: a) the wrongdoer has the wilful intention to cause the death of the individual, and b) the wrongdoer has the subjective knowledge that its intention of wilfully inflicting bodily harm upon an individual with the act or series of acts shall result in the latter’s death, and c) the wrongdoer performs the act or series of acts even if the wrongdoer has the knowledge that its act of inflicting bodily harm is evidently so dangerous that it shall lead to the death of the individual/s.
It is worth noting that there are five situations where the act of Culpable Homicide does not amount to Murder (i.e. the situations not under Section 300):
- If a wrongdoer receives sudden and grave provocation resulting in the deprivation of the wrongdoer’s power of self-control and if the said provocation causes the death of either the one who provokes the wrongdoer or any other person by mistake or accident, then the act is Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder., such that the said provocation satisfies the following conditions:
- The provocation is not voluntarily provoked by the wrongdoer as an excuse for either doing bodily harm or killing any other person, i.e. the provocation is not sought by the wrongdoer.
- The provocation does not satisfy the conformities of the law, including the cases where the provocation does not come from a public servant.
- The provocation must not be in the lawful exercise of the individual’s right to private defence.
- The provocation must be so sudden, such that the wrongdoer has no time to premeditate and conceptualize a Murder.
- The provocation must be grave enough to warrant a reaction from the wrongdoer.
- The death of an individual by the wrongdoer in the exercise in good faith of the right of private defence of either the wrongdoer or the wrongdoer’s property without the wrongdoer exceeding the power given by the law, such that the offence is not premeditated and the infliction of harm by the wrongdoer is not more than what is deemed necessary for the purpose of the private defence of the wrongdoer against the deceased.
- If a public servant or the one aiding a public servant performs an act or series of acts for the advancement of public justice by not only acting in an unauthorized way but also exceeding the powers entrusted on the former by law, such that the performance causes the death of an individual, then the said public servant is not charged with Murder if and only if the following conditions are met at the end of the public servant:
- The performance was done in good faith without any ill-faith towards the deceased individual.
- The public servant thinks and believes the act or series of acts to be lawful.
- The public servant thinks and believes the act or series of acts to be necessary for the due discharge of its duty as a public servant.
- A Culpable Homicide does not amount to murder if the same has been done in the heat of the moment as an outcome of a sudden quarrel between the wrongdoer and the deceased individual, provided the sudden nature of the quarrel/ provocation leaves no room for any premeditation on the side of the wrongdoer; additionally, it is expected for the wrongdoer to have not acted in a cruel or unusual manner (without taking any undue advantage of the quarrel).
- In the Law of Torts, a duty is placed on every individual to perform acts with reasonable care so as to avoid harming any person around the said individual, i.e. the duty of care extends to one’s neighbours and every person one comes in contact with either directly or indirectly. Volenti Non-Fit Injuria is a tort defence where X gives its voluntary and sound consent to Y for Y to perform an act or series of acts while Y knows that the said performance has a risk of causing either bodily harm or death of Y; consequently, Y, being a major (above 18 years of age) and of sound mind cannot claim any damages from X since the actions of X were consented by Y. Similarly, a Culpable Homicide does not amount to murder if the person either suffers death or takes the risk of death with its own consent,
Under Section 302, an individual convicted of Murder shall be punished with either life imprisonment or the death penalty along with the imposition of a fine by the court of law. If the negligent/ rash performance of an act or series of acts causes the death of any individual, such that the death does not amount to Culpable Homicide, then the wrongdoer shall be punished under Section 304A with either imprisonment of no more than two years or a fine or both. If a wrongdoer performs an act or series of acts with either the intention or the knowledge of causing either bodily harm or death of an individual and if the act is such that death of the individual due to the pursuance of the act amounts to Murder and if the individual is not dead, then the wrongdoer may be punished for Attempt to Murder under Section 307, wherein the wrongdoer is punished with imprisonment of no more than ten years with the imposition of a fine. If the attempted pursuance of the act actually causes harm to the individual, then the wrongdoer shall be liable to a punishment of life imprisonment. If X intends of causing the death of a new-born child and if X proceeds to expose the new-born child to the intense heat of the sun (the act) with the knowledge that prolonged exposure to intense heat can be fatal for new-born children and if the new-born child is rescued in time (non-rescuing would lead to the death of the said child), then X is guilty of Attempt to Murder
Similarly, if a wrongdoer performs an act or series of acts with either the intention or the knowledge of causing either bodily harm or death of an individual and if the act is such that death of the individual due to the pursuance of the act amounts to Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder, then the wrongdoer may be punished for Attempt to Commit Culpable Homicide under Section 308, wherein the wrongdoer is punished with either imprisonment of no more than three years or the imposition of a fine or both. If the attempted pursuance of the aforementioned act actually causes harm to the individual, then the wrongdoer shall be liable to punishment or either imprisonment of no more than seven years or imposition of fine or both.
If a wrongdoer is serving a punishment of life imprisonment and if the wrongdoer causes the death of another individual due to bodily harm as either Murder or Attempt to Murder, then the wrongdoer is punished under Section 302 and Section 307 respectively with the death penalty.
If the death of a woman occurs as a result of any bodily injury (including burns) beyond the reasonably normal circumstances (ex: cut to the finger whilst chopping the vegetables, etcetera) within seven years of her marriage and if it is well-established that the said woman was subjected to harassment or cruelty at the hands of either her husband or the relatives of her husband in connection to the demand for some dowry (as defined under Section 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961), then the death of the said woman is termed as Dowry Death under Section 304B, Sub-Section 1 and the aforementioned persons are liable for causing the Dowry Death. Any person tied to causing the Dowry Death of a woman will be punished with an imprisonment term of seven years to life under Section 304B, Sub-Section 2. Chief Justice N. V. Ramana widens the scope of Section 304B to suggest that the court of law must interpret the phrase ‘that soon before her death she was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry’ in the most liberal fashion to uphold the intention of Section 304B to punish Dowry Death by satisfying itself with only a proximate and livid link between the dowry-related harassment of the woman (wife) and the actual death of the woman as a result of any bodily injury. It is worth noting that the harassment herein covers physical, emotional, mental, economic and sexual harassment, including threatening and hostile verbal attacks within the household of the woman. In the case of Dowry Death, it is presumed by the court of law that the wrongdoer (either the husband or the relatives of the husband) is guilty and the burden of proof rests on the wrongdoer to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the harassment towards the victim did not cause the death of the victim.
If any individual performs an act or series of acts in an attempt to unnaturally end their life, then the said individual commits the offence of Attempt to Suicide under Section 309 and the individual, provided the suicide does not attain fruition, is punished with either simple imprisonment of no more than one year or a fine or both; however, if X abets or assists the aforementioned individual in committing Suicide (either directly or indirectly), then X has committed the offence of Abetment of Suicide under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, wherein X is punished with imprisonment of no more than ten years and imposition of a fine. Although Section 309 deprives a victim of attempted suicide of the necessary medical care since the medical professionals await a go-ahead from the law enforcement agencies because the attempt is placed under the aegis of medico-legal cases, it discourages persons who attempt suicide as a threat to unfairly build pressure or blackmail the system around them, rather than attempting the said suicide with the intention of committing suicide.
If X is either a minor (below the age of 18) or an insane/ unsound person or a delirious person or an idiot or in a state of intoxication and if X commits suicide and if Y abets/ assists X in committing suicide, then Y is punished with either death penalty or life imprisonment or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years and imposition of a fine under Section 305.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860, illustrates three offences as crimes against the human body: Murder, Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder and Suicide, within Chapter XVI, wherein each offence inflicts a certain degree of harm upon the body of an individual. It is worth noting that every Culpable Homicide may not amount to Murder; however, every Murder is a Culpable Homicide. The thin difference between the two is intent, i.e. an action causing the death of the individual is Culpable Homicide if the wrongdoer did not intend to cause the death of the individual; additionally, if the wrongdoer has a well-established intention to kill the person, then the offence shifts from Culpable Homicide to Murder.
In the offence of Culpable Homicide, the wrongdoer may or may not know that its actions may cause either bodily harm or death of the person in the ordinary course of nature. In a situation where the wrongdoer strikes a vital organ of an individual with a sharp knife and if that an injury to the said vital organ is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature and if the wrongdoer has the knowledge that its actions will cause the death of the person in all probability, then the offence of the wrongdoer is Murder; however, if the wrongdoer hits a non-vital part of the person’s body with a blunt object like stone and if the death of the person due to the injuries is likely (but not probable in the ordinary course of nature), then the offence of the wrongdoer becomes Culpable Homicide.
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