Punishment for attempt to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or any other imprisonment

A person who attempts to commit an offence is punishable by Indian Penal Code with imprisonment for life or imprisonment this is laid down in the section 511 of IPC.

An illustration for the same is that a person makes an attempt to steal some chattels by breaking a box and finds after opening the box that there is no chattel in it. He has done an act towards the Commission of theft and therefore will be considered guilty under this section.

  • Section 511 of Indian Penal Code only includes the offences under this code only and not to any offences covered under any other law.
  • This section does not include offenses which are punishable with death only or fine only it applies to offences that are punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment.
  • It includes the attempts for which there is no express provision of punishment in Indian Penal Code.


Attempt occupies a place in between intention and offense it would thus appear from the above analysis that there are three distinct stages of a crime

  1. Intention
  2. Attempt
  3. Commission

There is however a fourth stage also which is known as the preparation stage which is very important for our purpose as the line that separates attempt from preparation is not very distinct and precise and courts are often faced with the difficulty as to whether the act and question constitutes an attempt or amounts to the preparation only which arises because the law punishes stages may be arranged in the natural order of their succession as follows

  • Intention
  • Preparation
  • Attempt
  • Commission

There is a chain of acts between intention and Commission. Preparation differs from intention in that it is not a mental process.

It belongs to the world of material phenomena. It brings about changes a new disposition of things. It is constituted of act or acts and it is capable of being perceived by others through the senses. This section contemplates the doing of an act in pursuance of the attempt before the attempt can be punished. The question that arises is:

How can we say that so far in the chain of acts it is preparation and beyond it is attempt?

Can we lay our fingers and say this is the point at which preparation ends and attempt begins?

 The first and the last stages do not present this difficulty of discernment. It is the intermediary stages which are confused. We have to apply the principles of this section to a few selective acts. All acts do not come with comprehensive range of this section.

IPC makes the attempt also an offence the crucial test is weather the last act if uninterrupted and successful would constitute a crime. If the accused intended that the natural consequence of his act would result in the death but was frustrated only by extraneous circumstances, he would be guilty of an attempt to commit the offence of murder


It is not possible to give a precise or exhaustive definition of attempt it may be broadly stated that the intentional at which a person does towards the Commission of an offence but which fails in its object through circumstances independent of the violation of that person is “attempt”

The important case related to attempt is Pram Narayan vs. State of MP where the High Court found the accused guilty of attempting to rape with a girl. In the present case accused takes away a girl with force and carry her near the trees and bushes. The accused toppled down her and snatched her clothes, after that tried to have sexual intercourse with a girl. The accused was convicted for attempt to rape.

In an English case R vs. Khan, the court upheld that even after Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976. The accused can be convicted for attempt to rape under Criminal Attempt Act. 1981. It is immaterial whether he has taken the consent of the girl or not but only attempt to have sexual intercourse is necessary.


In re Bavjai it was observed that the dividing lines between a mere preparation and an attempt to commit a crime may be rather there in some cases and the question whether there has been an attempt or only a preparation to commit it is to be decided on the facts of each particular case. A huge volume of case law both Indian and English developed on the question as to how or where attempt from preparation. This huge volume represents a many sided approach and instead of resolving the controversy it has only added to it.

The case of Ashfaq Hussain vs The Crown reported in Pakistan cases 1950 Lahore 593, in so far as it summarises all that has so far been said on the subject, may be said to be a leading case on the point.

The facts of the case are that the accused rushed into the courtroom with a blood stained dagger and wanted to stab a person who was bleeding from a wound already received outside the court room, but the accused was prevented from doing so by the Sub-inspector who pointed a revolver at him and made him drop the dagger and by the magistrate, who shouted at the accused to stop and ask the people present in the court to seize him. The Lahore High Court held that the accused had clearly gone beyond the stage of preparation his act was more than an assault and constitute an attempt. The observation by the learned High Court when the matter came up before it in appeal are worthwhile for our purpose. It observed that in every crime there are four stages first the intention to commit it, second the preparation, third the attempt and fourth is the crime. If the attempt fails the crime is not complete but the attempt is punishable because it creates alarm which of itself is an injury and the moral guilt of offender is the same as if he had succeeded. An attempt to commit a crime must be distinguished from the intention or the preparation to commit it, intention is inferred by the direction of conduct towards the object. Will is not taken for the deed unless there is to be some external act which shows that progress has been made in the direction of the deed. Preparation is in devising or arranging the measures necessary for the Commission of the offence. It differs widely from attempt which is the direct movement towards the Commission, after preparation has been made.


The Supreme Court answered the question in Abhayanand Mishra vs. the State of Bihar (1961). The petitioner in this case wanted the Patna University to give him permission to appear as a private candidate for an English exam in the year 1954. The petitioner for the sake of the same mentioned that he has been a student of B.A in the year 1951 and he has been employed as a teacher in a particular school. After accepting the same, the university granted permission and demanded a charge reduction and two photos of the petitioner. After submission of the same a confirmation card for him has been sent to the school head master .After receiving the information that the petitioner is not a teacher, investigation begun and it was discovered that the qualifications of the petitioner were fraud and he is not a teacher in any school and he has also been prohibited from taking any university test for a certain period of time. After investigation by the cops it was discovered that the petitioner was convict for attempting to steal when he deceived the university.

In this case, the accused were charged for cheating because he gave fraudulent papers to the Patna University for appearing in M.A exams. The accused contended that his action was only at the preparation stage and not at the stage of attempt. But, The Supreme Court held that when the accused submitted his application for consideration by the university, he had entered the stage of attempted cheating.

After this, the Supreme Court, in various judgments, divided preparation from attempt through the following tests

  • The Proximity Rule: Proximity in Relation to Time and Action or to Intention?
  • The Doctrine of Locus Poenitentiae 
  • The Equivocality Test 
  • Attempting an Impossible Act 


This test is used for distinguishing the difference between the stage of preparation and attempt to commit a crime this test examines that how far does the defendant had progressed towards the Commission of the offence it does not focus on the point that how much the offender has left to accomplish.

To constitute an attempt to commit any offence it is required to show that the same has been done unequivocally or in a way that leaves no doubt to establish the criminal aim.


When any person by his conduct shows that the person actually intends to carry out a crime without a reasonable doubt than any such conduct will be set as a criminal attempt to commit that crime. Equivocality test says that in order to consider an act as attempt the act must be clear and unequivocal that indicates the intention to carry out a crime without any reasonable doubt if this structure follows then the stage will be covered under criminal attempt to commit crime.


Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.


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