“The justifications of men who kill should always be heard with skepticism, said the monster.”
― Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls
Murder is the act of one person murdering another in common parlance. Murder is one of the most severe crimes a person can do since it includes the taking of another person’s life. Murder is a breach of a person’s “Right to Life” under Article 21 of the Constitution, which is our country’s most basic, crucial, and necessary tenet. The biggest sin that mankind can do is interfering with another person’s life and causing it to end. Murder is ethically abhorred and despised, but it is also seen negatively according to historical standards.
The provision for murder under the Law of Crimes is established in Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860, and it is read in conjunction with Section 299, which provides “Culpable Homicide.” Homicide is defined as the killing of one person by another. Homicide may be careless, and careless homicide can be murder. Murder is a more serious crime than culpable homicide, which is a kind of murder. A crime is not considered murder unless it comes within the category of negligent homicide. Once an offence meets the criteria of culpable homicide, it is determined whether the basics of Section 300 are met, resulting in a murder, or if it falls within the exceptions, resulting in a culpable homicide that does not amount to murder.
Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code
The Section reads:
Culpable homicide amounts to murder,
- “If the act which causes the death is done with the intention of causing death, or”
- “If the act is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury which the offender knows can cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused, or”
- “If it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury to any person which is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, or”
- “If the person committing the act knows that the act is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death or such bodily injury which is likely to cause death.”
Example:A purposefully gives Z a sword-shaped dagger capable of killing a man under normal conditions. As a result, Z dies. In this case, A is guilty of murder, even though he did not plan to kill Z.
This section is a list of circumstances in which culpable homicide is not deemed murder. Culpable homicide does not constitute murder if any of the following requirements are met:
1. The person loses his capacity to control himself as a result of the victim’s acute and abrupt provocation; or the individual commits the murder by mistake or error.
2. Culpable homicide is not murder if the criminal exceeds his legal rights and kills the victim in good faith while exercising his right to private defence of person or property, and without intending to do more damage than is required for such protection.
3. Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, while acting as a public servant or assisting a public servant in the advancement of public justice, exceeds the powers granted to him by law and causes death by doing an act that he, in good faith, believes to be lawful and necessary for the proper discharge of his duty as such public servant and without malice toward the individual whose death is caused.
4. Culpable homicide is not murder if it is done without premeditation during a violent fight in the heat of passion during an abrupt quarrel, and the offenders do not take unfair advantage or act violently or unusually.
Culpable homicide is not murder when the individual who causes the death is above the age of eighteen and willfully accepts death or the prospect of death.
The following factors seem to comprise the essence of murder, according to the aforementioned clause:
- “The intent to murder.”
- “The intent is to cause bodily injury to the victim, which is likely to end in death.”
- “The intent to cause bodily injury sufficient to result in death in the normal course of nature.”
- “If the conduct is performed with the knowledge that it must, in all probability, cause death or physical damage that is likely to cause death, and without any justification for incurring the risk of causing death or bodily injury.”
Several courts have examined these key components in a variety of cases. The Court examined the difference between knowing and intention as mental components in Kesar Singh v. State of Haryana.
“Knowledge denotes a bare state of conscious awareness of certain facts in which the human mind may remain supine or inactive,” the Court ruled, “whereas intention denotes a conscious state in which mental faculties are aroused into activity and consolidated into action for the deliberate purpose of being directed toward a specific and particular end that the human mind conceives and perceives before it.” Furthermore, the Supreme Court has ruled that the chain of evidence must be conclusive and cannot allow for a fair decision in favour of the accused’s innocence. The final phrase implies a higher probability of mortality, implying that death is the most likely outcome of the injury in the regular course of events.
The clause further defines the five exceptions to the murder crime:
Grave and immediate provocation
- “Private security”
- “Act on Public Service”
- “An unexpected battle”
The court determined that the applicable standard for sudden provocation is the effect of the provocation on a reasonable man; and in applying this standard, it is especially important to consider whether a reasonable man has had sufficient time to cool off since receiving the information that caused the provocation.
A person guilty of murder under Section 302 is sentenced to death or life in prison with a fine. Because murder is a terrible crime, extra attention must be given to whether the provision’s fundamental elements have been met and whether any exceptions apply. To avoid a miscarriage of justice, it is vital to assess the numerous precedent-setting decisions that have been rendered on the subject.
K.M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra, 1961 (AIR 1962 SC 605):
The Supreme Court of India has thoroughly explained the rules of provocation in this case. The following remarks were made by the court:
- The threshold for “sudden and severe provocation” is whether a reasonable man from the defendant’s society, put in the defendant’s circumstances, would have been sufficiently provoked to lose control.
- In rare cases, an accused’s words and actions may constitute a swift and significant provocation, exonerating him.
- The victim’s mental history and past behaviour may be considered in determining whether the current behaviour reflects a sudden and substantial provocation for committing the crime.
- The deadly strike should clearly show the impact of passion induced by the unexpected and terrifying provocation. Otherwise, the accused will be permitted to tamper with the evidence.
MUTHU v. STATE OF TAMIL NADU
The Supreme Court decided in this instance that frequent harassment might damage self-control, resulting in an unanticipated and dangerous provocation.
WHEN AN INDIVIDUAL VIOLATES HIS RIGHT TO SELF-DEFENSE
When a person takes action to protect himself from additional injury, they have engaged in an act of private defence. If the defendant knowingly violates his right to a private defence, he is guilty of murder. If the death was accidental, the accused will be charged with homicide but not murder.
ILLUSTRATION: X tries to flog Y, but not in a way that would do considerable harm to Y. While X continues to strike, Y draws a weapon. Y feels he has no choice but to be flogged by X, so he shoots at him. X is accountable for careless homicide that is not murder.
STATE OF MADRAS v. NATHAN
The landlord attempted to evict the defendant by force in this case. The defendant murdered the landlord while using his constitutional right to a private defence. The defendant had no reason to fear death since the deceased did not possess a weapon capable of causing significant injury or death. Because the dead had no intention of killing the defendant, the defendant’s right to a private defence was violated. The defendant was charged with negligent homicide, which did not amount to murder.
IN THE CASE OF A PUBLIC SERVANT
The action is carried out by a public official in the interest of public justice. If a public employee does an act that is necessary to carry out his obligations in good faith and believes it is lawful.
For example, if a police officer tries to apprehend a suspect and the suspect flees, and the officer shoots the suspect in response, the officer is not guilty of murder.
DAKHI SINGH v. STATE
In this instance, the appellant was a member of the Railway Protection Force. While on duty, he accidentally shot and killed a fireman while attempting to catch a thief. The officer was entitled to remuneration under this provision.
When a disagreement occurs unexpectedly or on purpose, it is unexpected. Both participants have no intention of killing or injuring another individual. It makes little difference whether one side started the fighting or provoked the other.
STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH v. RADHEY SHYAM AND ANR
In this instance, the appellant was enraged to learn that his calf had broken into the decedent’s home. When the victim attempted to stop the appellant from abusing him, he was shot. Because the victim was unarmed at the time, the appellant meant to murder him, and he was convicted of murder.
EXPRESSION “BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT” MEANING
A reasonable doubt must be genuine in order to prevent a guilty verdict. If the evidence raises reasonable doubt in the mind of the trial judge, the judgement must be issued against the party that bore the burden of proof. If the jury is equally split on the defendant’s guilt, the defendant must be acquitted.
Examining the most unusual death penalty cases
Bachan Singh v. State of Punjabdeveloped a principle that restricts the court’s wide jurisdiction in inflicting the death sentence, which is the rarest of the rare. The death penalty was reduced from a general norm to a rare occurrence as a consequence of recognising the one-of-a-kind basis for imposing the most severe punishment, which cannot be reversed in any case after its installation. Concern for human life, civilised society’s rules, and the desire to rehabilitate criminals have fascinated the courts, yet the term “rarest of the rare” has yet to be defined. The death penalty must be based on the offender’s behaviour, not the offence itself. The principle of sentencing proportionality in relation to the crime, the victim, and the perpetrator has been the courts’ primary concern.
As previously stated, the distinction between murder and culpable homicide is fine. Despite the fact that the end consequence of both charges is the same, the courts have consistently endeavoured to discern between them, with intent being the most crucial factor to consider. The prosecution’s whole case might rest on a single point, most notably “intention,” while the defence could undermine the prosecution’s entire case by establishing “no intention.”
Article, 21 Constitution of India.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860.
(2008) 15 SCC 753.
K.M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra, 1961 (AIR 1962 SC 605).
K.M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra, 1961 (AIR 1962 SC 605).
State Of Madras V. Nathan, AIR 1973 SC 665
AIR 1955 All 379.
State of U.P. v. Radhey Shyam Rai (2009) 5 SCC 577.
AIR 1980 SC 898.
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