TEST FOR DETERMINING WHAT AMOUNTS TO ATTEMPT- Social danger test

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.

STAGES OF A CRIME

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

ATTEMPT DEFINITION

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.

PREPARATION AND ATTEMPT DISTINCTION

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.

The case of Ashfaq Hussain vs The Crown reported in Pakistan cases 1950 Lahore 593, in so far as it summarizes 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.

ABHAYANAND MISHRA VS THE STATE OF BIHAR (1961).

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 
  • Social danger test
  • Attempting an Impossible Act 

SOCIAL DANGER TEST

The social danger test explains that any attempt to do commit a particular offence does not proceed until the person committing such offence has committed an act which should be punished in order to protect the society.

Certain factors are considered in the following case such as

  • The gravity of the offence conducted,
  • How near the act was to completion of the crime,
  • And the probability that the conduct will result in the crime.

The social danger test is based on the principle that punishment is meant to deter people from acting in a way that is harmful to society. Until the offender’s conduct is seen as serious, there is no reason to deter it. 

In order to distinguish and differentiate the stage of attempt from the stage of preparation the factors that are consider are The seriousness of the crime attempted and The apprehension of the social danger involved in it. In this test the accuser’s conduct is not examined only partially but the consequences of the circumstances and the fullness of the facts are taken into consideration.

An ‘attempt’ is made punishable because every attempt though it fails, must create or cause alarm or a sense of insecurity in the society, which of itself is an injury and, therefore, the moral guilt of the offender is same as if he had been successful.


The seriousness of the crime attempted and the apprehension of the social danger involved is taken into consideration to distinguish an act of attempt from that of preparation. Thus, if a person gives some pills to a pregnant woman to procure abortion, but it had no effect because the drug was harmless, the person is liable for attempt to cause miscarriage since the act would cause an alarm to society and will have social repercussions.

REFERENCES

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