A crime is defined as the commission of an act that is prohibited by law, or an omission of an act that is obligated by the law. In other words, crime may be defined as the disobedience of law. Another important aspect of a crime is that it affects the public interest, rather than the rights of a single individual, which shall be a part of civil law.
ELEMENTS OF CRIME
The chief elements necessary to constitute a crime are :
- A human being under a legal obligation to act in a particular way and a fit subject for the infliction of appropriate punishment;
- An evil intent on the part of such a human being;
- An act committed or omitted in furtherance of such intent;
- An injury to another person or society at large by such an act.
Stages of Crime
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 ironic fact about this stage is that the law cannot punish a person just for having an intention to do any illegal act.
Moreover, being a mental concept, it is very difficult to judge if a person possesses any such intention. Just having an intention will not constitute an offense.
Eg: Waging a War against the Government is punishable. In this case, mere intention to commit is punishable. Similarly, mere assembly of persons to commit a dacoity is punishable even though there is no preparation for it
Preparation is the second stage amongst the stages of crime. It means arranging the necessary resources for the execution of the intentional criminal act. Intention and preparation alone are not enough to constitute a crime.
The general rule under the law is that the preparation of a crime shall not be punishable. The reason behind the general rule is that it is nearly impossible to prove that the accused made the preparation to execute the crime. Apart from this, the test of locus poenitentiae is applied in cases where the culpability of preparation is in question. The test provides that a person has an opportunity to withdraw from his act before he actually commits the intended crime. The test has been further explained in the subsequent sections.
Exceptions to the general rule that a person cannot be held criminally liable for the preparation of an act have been provided under the Code. These exceptions include:
- Preparation to wage a war against the Government of India – Section 122 of the Code provides that collection of arms, ammunition, or associating with people with an intention to wage a war against the State shall be a punishable offence with imprisonment for a term that may not exceed ten years, and such the offender shall also be liable for fine.
- Counterfeiting coins – Section 233, Section 234, and Section 235 of the Code provide the punishment for counterfeiting any coin, including an Indian coin, and the possession of any counterfeit coin. These provisions also provide punishment for the preparation of producing or using a counterfeit coin.
- Counterfeiting Government stamps – Section 255 of the Code
- Preparation to commit a dacoity – Section 399 of the Code
- Possession of forged documents – Section 474 of the Code
These offences are punishable at the stage of preparation due to the gravity of the outcome of the crime if committed.
An attempt is a direct movement towards the execution of a crime after the preparation of the plan. According to law, a person is guilty of an attempt to commit an offense if he/she does an act which is more than simply preparatory to the commission of the offense. Moreover, a person is guilty of attempting to commit an offense even though the facts are such that executing the offense seems impossible.
An act that 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 an attempt because the commission of such an act is impossible. Still, if a person tries to steal from an empty pocket it is an attempt because it is an act toward the commission of the offence and the failure of the accused is not due to his own act.
Essentials of Attempt
- Guilty of intention to commit an offence.
- Some acts did towards committing the offence.
- The act must fall short of the completed offence
Malkiat Singh Case explains this second test, in this case, a truck carrying a paddy was stopped at the Samalkha barrier a place 32 miles away from Delhi. Evidently, there was no export of paddy within the meaning of para 2(a) f the Punjab paddy (Export control) order, 1959, the court decided that there was no attempt to commit the offence of export. It was merely preparation. Distinguishing between attempt and preparation supreme court observed that the test of distinction between the two is whether the overt acts already done are such that if the offender changes his mind and does not proceed further in its progress, the acts done would be completely harmless. In the present case, the appellants may have been warned that they had no license to carry the paddy and they may have changed their mind at any place between the Samalkha barrier and Delhi – Punjab boundary and not have proceeded further in their journey
The last stage in the commission of an offense is its successful completion. If the accused becomes successful in his attempt to commit the crime, he will be guilty of the complete offense. Moreover, if his attempt is unsuccessful he will be guilty of his attempt.
For example, if A fires at B to kill him, if B dies, A will be guilty of committing the offence of murder and if B is only injured, it will be a case of attempt to murder.
Asgarali Pradhania v. Emperor (1933)
In this case, the Calcutta High Court, while distinguishing between an attempt to commit an offence and its preparation, was of the opinion that not every act done by the accused can constitute an attempt to commit the said offense. The facts of the case included the accusation of an attempt to cause a miscarriage in his ex-wife. The Court held that if the accused, to administer a drug that shall cause a miscarriage, administers any harmless substance instead, he shall not be liable for the attempt to cause miscarriage. However, if the accused’s failure is caused by someone else, it shall result in the contrary.
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