There are four stages of crime. When an illegal act is committed by a person voluntarily it is done through four stages. Together these four stages are punishable under IPC. The four stages of crime are:
The intention is the first stage of any offense and is known as the mental or psycho stage. In this stage, the offender decides the motive and decides his course or direction towards the offense. The ironical fact about this stage is that the law cannot punish the person just for having an intention to do any illegal act.
Moreover, being the mental concept, it is very difficult to judge if a person possesses any such intention. Just by having an intention will not constitute an offense.
Preparation is the second stage amongst the stages of crime. It means to arrange the necessary resources for the execution of the intentional criminal act. Intention and preparation alone are not enough to constitute a crime. Preparation is not punishable because in many cases the prosecution fails to prove that the preparations in the question are for the execution of the particular crime. Although in general preparation does not amount to crime but there are certain excpeptions where preparation is constituted as crime, such as:
- Preparation to wage war against government.
- Preparation for committing dacoity.
- Preparation for counterfeiting of coins or govt. Stamps.
- Preparation to commit depredation.
It means an act towards the commission of the offence which fails due to circumstances independent of the attempter’s will. It fails owing to the external factors which are beyond the control of the attempter.
A person commits the offence of ‘attempt to commit a particular offence’ when
- He intends to commit a particular offence
- He makes preparation for it
- Does any act towards its commission
An attempt to commit an offence begins when the preparation ends and a step towards the commission of an offence is taken however such step should be indicative of the intention to commit an actual crime there must be a proximate relation between the two i.e. if the interruption was not caused due to external factor, crime would have been the only result.
A person is said to commit an offence of attempt also in the cases in which he voluntarily desists i.e. repents before the attempt is completed from the actual commission of the crime.
An attempt is made punishable because every attempt though it fails, must create or cause alarm which of itself is an injury to the society. It is necessary to prove for an offence of attempt is that the accused had gone beyond the stage of preparation. An act will amount to mere preparation if the person on his accord, gives it up before the criminal act is carried out.
In order to determine whether a given set of acts constitute attempt or preparation, the test is that whether the overt acts already done are such that if the person changes his mind and does not proceed further the acts already done would be completely harmless.
If they would be so, it would amount to preparation only but where the thing done is such if not prevented by any extraneous cause would fructify into the commission of the offence, it would amount to an attempt to commit the offence.
An act which is impossible to commit cannot be attempted and so is not culpable. However such impossibility must be absolute and not relative. For example if a person shoots a shadow, it shall not be attempt because the commission of such act is impossible but if a person tries to steal from an empty pocket it is an attempt because it is an act towards the commission of the offence and failure of accused is not due to his own act.
Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence shall be punished in IPC. In the case of GIAN KAUR V. STATE OF PUNJAB it was held that right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution does not include right to die or right to be killed.
This is the last stage of crime. At this stage, the offence is committed or is completed i.e. the accused succeeds his attempt and causes the injury. Finally, at this stage, the accused is held guilty for the commission of offence and is punished according to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
If an act remains confined to the first two stages there is, in general, no criminal liability. If intention and preparation were made punishable it would be impossible to prove that the object of an accused was to commit an offence. It is in the third stage that the liability arises. Whether the act is in the second stage or it has entered the third stage is a matter of evidence.
An act will amount to a mere preparation if the person on his own accord gives it up before the criminal act is carried out. A person attempting an offence may abandon it at some stage though initially, he had the intention. Abandonment is a defence if further action is freely and voluntarily abandoned before the act is put in process of final execution.
So long as the steps were taken by the accused leave room for doubts that he might of his own accord desist from the act to be attempted he would still be treated on the stage of preparation.
An act which is impossible to commit cannot be attempted and so is not culpable. Impossible acts are not punishable but the impossibility must be absolute and not only relative.
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