Culpable Homicide v. Murder

There has been a long-standing debate between Culpable Homicide and Murder. Both the Sections are similar to each other yet totally different in the eyes of law. Section 299 defines Culpable Homicide whereas Section 300 deals with Murder. This article discusses the concept of Culpable Homicide and Murder. Also, the comparison of Murder and Culpable Homicide is also discussed in the article. The article also reflects when are certain acts nor culpable homicide nor murder.

Culpable Homicide vs Murder

Homicide

The meaning of the word homicide means the killing of a human being by another human being. The killing of a human being by another human being may be lawful or unlawful. Homicide can be divided into two categories:

Lawful Homicide

If a human being kills another human being by lawful means or by the acts specified under Section 76-106 of I.P.C, then those acts can be treated as a lawful homicide.

All lawful homicides are not punishable and are exceptions to the punishment of homicide. Lawful homicide is defined under Section 76-106 of I.P.C. They are:

Mistake of Fact

If a person causes the death of a person by mistake of fact, it is not said to be a murder or culpable homicide. It is a lawful homicide subject to the essential conditions specified in the Mistake of fact under I.P.C.

Judicial Acts

If a person causes the death of a person because of the judicial acts, it is not said to be an unlawful homicide. It is not punishable under the I.P.C.

Accidents

If a person causes the death of a person because of an accident, it can be treated as a lawful homicide.

Acts Carried Out to Avoid Greater Harm

If a person causes the death of another person in order to avoid greater damage or harm or in good faith, it becomes a lawful homicide, subject to conditions specified under I.P.C.

Other Acts Amounting to Lawful Homicide
  • Acts by a minor. (under seven years of age)
  • Acts by an intoxicated person. (except self-intoxication)
  • Acts by people of unsound mind.
  • Acts did in good faith.
  • Acts did under compulsion of threat
  • Communication made in good faith
  • Acts did under compulsion of threat.
  • Right of private defense

All the above acts fall under the category of lawful homicide falling under Section 76-106 under the chapter of general exceptions and are not punishable under the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Unlawful Homicide

Unlawful homicide is the killing of a human being by another human being that is liable to be punishable as per the Indian Penal Code. If a human being kills another human being without any exceptions specified under Sections 76-106 I.P.C, then that act falls under unlawful homicide.

 Following are the different unlawful homicide enumerated in the I.P.C.:

Suicide (Section 305-306)

If a human being kills himself, it is known as suicide. It is an unlawful homicide. The interesting point is if a person causes the death of himself cannot be punished as the person who has committed the act of suicide is already dead. Hence, an attempt to suicide is also punishable under the I.P.C.

Dowry Death (Section 304 B)

If a person causes the death of a female human being for the demand of dowry is an unlawful homicide and is punishable and is defined under Section 304 B.

Causing Death by Negligence

If a person causes the death of another human being without taking proper care i.e acting negligently, it is punishable under the I.P.C and is punishable under Section 304 A.

Unlawful Homicide by Intention.

Unlawful homicide by intention is of two kinds,

Culpable homicide is defined under Section 299 of the India Penal Code. The meaning of the word culpable is punishable or liable to be punished and homicide means killing of one human being by another human being. Murder is also a form of culpable homicide.

Summary

Homicide – with general exceptions = Lawful Homicide

Homicide – without general exceptions = unlawful Homicide

Unlawful Homicide + himself/herself = suicide

Unlawful Homicide + rash/negligent act = causing death by negligence

Unlawful Homicide + Demand for Dowry + within 7 years of marriage = Dowry Death

Unlawful Homicide + intention to cause death = Culpable Homicide or Murder

Three kinds of Culpable Homicide

Culpable Homicide

Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code defines Culpable Homicide as “ Whosoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as it is likely to cause death or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death , commits the offence of Culpable Homicide.”

The essentials of Culpable Homicide are:

  • Whoever causes death – Death means the death of a human being. It does not include the death of an unborn child, but it may amount to culpable homicide to cause the death of a living child if any part of the child has been brought forth. However it’s not necessary that the person whose death has been caused must be the very person whose death was intended.
  • By doing an act – death may be caused in a number of ways such as by poisoning, starving, striking, drowning or communicating some shocking news etc. Act here includes illegal omissions. An omission is illegal if it be an offence and in some direction is a breach of law.
  • (a) Intention to cause death – Intention means the expectation of the consequence in question. When a man is charged with doing the act of which the probable consequence may be highly injurious, the intention is inferred from the acts of the accused and circumstance of the case.

(b) With the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death – The intention of the offender may not be to cause death , it would be sufficient if he intended to cause such bodily injury which was likely to cause death.

(c) With the knowledge that he is likely by such an act to cause death – Knowledge is a strong word and imports a certainty and not merely a probability. Here knowledge refers to the personal knowledge of the person who does the act.

Murder

Section 300 of the Code defines murder as – Except in the cases, culpable homicide is murder if –

  1. If the act by which death is caused is done with the intention of causing death .
  2. If it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused
  3. If it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death
  4. If the person committing the act knows that it is so immediately dangerous that it must in all probability cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death and commits such an act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such bodily harm

As in the case of Culpable Homicide intention and knowledge for committing the act is important. Where a man intentionally inflicts bodily injury sufficient in the ordinary cause of nature to cause death, then such a person will be liable for murder in case of murder the probability of death is more than in the case of culpable homicide

Ingredients of Murder

  1. Act by which the death caused is done with the intention of causing death: When an act is done with the intention of causing death, then it is culpable homicide amounting to murder. ‘Act’ includes illegal omission also. Death may be caused by illegal omission as well. It is the action of a person with the clear intention of killing a person.
  2. With the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause death: As per the second clause of Section 300, if a person intentionally causes bodily injury, with the knowledge that such bodily injury will cause the death of the person injured, then it will be culpable homicide amounting to murder. In case of offence falling under clause (2) of Section 300, there is first, the intention to cause bodily harm and next, there is the ‘subjective knowledge’ that death will be the likely consequence of the intended injury.
  3. With the intention of causing bodily injury to any person – sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death: According to clause (3) of Section 300, it is sufficient that there is the intention to cause the bodily injury that was actually caused. The subjective factor ends with that. There need be no further inquiry whether the offender has the intention or the knowledge that such bodily injury should be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death
  4. The person committing the act known that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death: Clause (4) of Section 300 applies to cases of dangerous action without an intention to cause specific bodily injury to any person e.g., furious driving or firing at a target near the public road. However, the act must be accompanied by the knowledge that the act was so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause (i) death, or (ii) such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.

Culpable Homicide vs Murder

Sr. NoCulpable HomicideMurder
1.Culpable Homicide is the genusMurder is the species
2.There is some intention but it is not so much stronger as evident in murderThere is a strong intention to cause death. Generally, a plan to kill.
3.Every Culpable Homicide is not a MurderEvery murder is primarily a culpable homicide.
4.Less serious as compared to murderIt is an aggravated form of culpable homicide
5.Where there is a probability of deathWhere there are more chances of death
6.Where there is likelihood of deathWhere there is the certainty of death
7.Punishment is lesser than murderPunishment is heavier than culpable homicide.

Conclusion

Culpable Homicide and Murder, this part is one of the most difficult parts of the Indian Penal code as there is a very slight difference between the two Sections. The acts of murder and culpable homicide are there from the dawn of mankind making these Sections equally important. Moreover, the filed is also very vast as it differs from situation to situation. There is also a need for few reforms in Sections 299, 300, 301 etc of the I.P.C as suggested by the Law Commission of India.

Questions

Q1 Culpable homicide is not murder if done under:

A) Intoxication

B) Sudden and grave provocation

C) Irresistible impulse

D)  All of the above

Ans. B

 Q2 Good faith within the meaning of the Indian Penal Code means-

A) An actual belief that the act was done is not contrary to law

       B) An act, in fact, done honestly.

       C) An act was done with due care and attention

       D) An act is done under bonafide belief

        Ans. C

Q3 Against which one of the following offenses, does the right of private defense of property extend to the voluntarily causing of death?

     A) Criminal misappropriation

     B) Criminal trespass

     C) Robbery

     D) Theft

     Ans. C

Q4 Nothing is an offense which is done by a person who is a –

A) Hundred years old man

 B) 12 years old boy

C) 6-year-old boy

 D) 18 years old girl

Ans. C

References

  1. https://www.latestlaws.com/articles/difference-between-murder-and-culpable-homicide-explained-by-roopali-lamba/
  2. https://www.clatapult.com/murder-v-culpable-homicide/
  3. https://www.latestlaws.com/articles/difference-between-murder-and-culpable-homicide-explained-by-roopali-lamba/
  4. https://lawctopus.com/clatalogue/difference-between-culpable-homicide-and-murder/
  5. http://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-518-culpable-homicide-versus-murder.html
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruHwwEa_2ME

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