Attempt basically means preparation to achieve something. But in crime, it is an effort to do an act, which goes in vain. Attempt has no particular definition in the Indian Penal Code, but section 511, of the Indian Penal Code, deals with the punishment for attempting to commit offence. The attempt is basically a criminal offence punishable under the law because whether the commission of the offence or the attempt, both create a threat in the minds of society. The only difference is that the one is completed successfully but the other is not due to some personal reasons or external circumstances. The punishment provided in the attempt under section 511 is also half of the punishment awarded because the attempt is not as injurious as it had been after it would have been committed.
Attempt is there for comprised of three elements, one is intent to commit a crime, conduct that constitutes a substantial step toward completing the crime and the last one is a failure to complete the crime.
The stage of attempt is subsequent to the stage of preparation and is punishable under law. The stage of attempt refers to the effort made by an individual in furtherance of his intention and on the basis of his preparation to commit the crime.
The initial two stages in the commission of a crime; intention and preparation are generally not punishable. The stage of attempt is subsequent to the stage of preparation and is punishable under law. The stage of attempt refers to the effort made by individual furtherance there of his intention and on the basis of his preparation to commit the crime. It is the overt action on the part of the individual seeking to fulfill his contemplation.8 It needs to be noted that a person is held liable for attempt only when his efforts to commit the intended crime are unsuccessful. When he succeeds in his effort, he is punished for the actual commission of the offence.
Let’s consider the example below;
X intends to kill Y because of some insulting things which Y had said about X’s father. In order to kill Y, X procures a gun, approaches his house, and knocks on his door. When Y opens the door, X points the gun at Y’s head and pulls the trigger.
In this case, if the gun fires and Y is killed, X will be liable for culpable homicide amounting to murder. However, if for some reason the gun does not fire and X runs away from the place, he will be liable for an attempt to commit culpable homicide amounting to murder. In the scheme of the Indian Penal Code, the issue of attempt as a crime in itself has been dealt in primarily four different ways.
- Firstly, on certain occasions, the crime and the attempt to commit the crime have been dealt with in the same section. An example of this is the offences against the State under sections 122, 123, etc.
- Secondly, on certain other occasions, the definition of the crime has been provided in one section, and the attempt to commit the crime has been made punishable under another section. One example is the attempt to commit murder which has been made punishable under section 307.
- Thirdly, there is one situation where only the attempt to do something is punishable but not the actual commission itself. Section 309 makes it a crime to attempt to commit suicide. For obvious reasons, an actual commission of suicide is not punishable as it would be impossible to punish the person who is already dead.
- Fourthly, section 511 of the Indian Penal Code provides for the general rule regarding attempt which is applicable in all such cases where the attempt to commit has not been specifically described as a crime and punishment for the same has not been prescribed.
It is important to remember that section 511 is applicable only to the attempt to commit such offences which are punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonments. Section 511 provides that whenever any person attempts to commit an offence that is punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment and no express provisions has been made in the Indian Penal Code for the punishment of such an attempt, such person shall be punished with imprisonment of any description provided for the offence attempted to be committed by him for a term which may extend to one-half of the imprisonment for life or as the case may be, one-half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for the offence being attempted by him or with such fine as is provided for as a punishment for such offence or with both.
Attempt consists of two elements. One is the intent to commit the underlying offense. The other is taking some substantial step, beyond mere preparation, collaborative on the intent to commit the underlying offense. The line between mere preparation and a substantial step can be hard to identify.
In most attempt cases, there will be grounds to argue that the elements of the attempted crime were not proven. There are two additional defenses to attempt crimes that may be available:
1) Abandonment or Renunciation
Essentials of Attempt:-
1) Guilty intention to commit an offence
2) Some act has done towards committing the offence
3) The act must fall short of the completed offence
4)Prescribed Punishments in the Indian Penal Code
In IPC certain offences and attempts have been dealt in the same Section and the same punishment is prescribed.
In Satvir Singh vs. State of Punjab, AIR 2001 SC 2828, it was observed that Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code makes attempt to commit an offence punishable. The offence attempted should be one punishable by the Code with imprisonment.
The conditions stipulated in the provision for completion of the said offence are-
- the offender should have done some act towards the commission of the main offence;
- such an attempt is not expressly covered as a penal provision elsewhere in the Code.
- Thus attempt on the part of the accused is the sine qua non for the offence under Section 511, IPC. If the act of the accused asking his wife/victim to go and commit suicide had driven her to proceed to the railway track for ending her life then it is expressly made punishable under Section 498A of the IPC. Section 498A, IPC makes cruelty a punishable offence.
In Abhayanand Mishra vs. the State of Bihar, AIR 1961 SC 1698, the appellant applied to the Patna University for permission to appear at the 1954 M.A. Examination in English as a private candidate representing that he was a graduate having obtained his B.A. degree in 1951 and that he had been teaching in a certain school. He attached bogus certificates in this regard. The University gave permission and issued admit card. In the meantime, however, the University came to know about the forged application of the applicant.
The issue before the Court was whether the appellant was guilty of an ‘attempt to cheat’ the University, under Section 415, IPC, in as much as he, by making the false representation, deceived the University and induced the authorities to issue admit-card. The arguments on behalf of the appellant were that what he did was just preparation and not an attempt to cheat; further, admit card was not property and had no pecuniary value in itself.
The Apex Court observed that a person commits the offence of ‘attempt to commit a particular offence’ when-
(i) he intends to commit that particular offence; and
(ii) he, having made preparations and with the intention to commit the offence, does an act towards its commission; such an act need not be the penultimate act towards the commission of that offence but must be an act during the course of committing that offence.
The Court held that the appellant did deceive the University, as dishonest concealment of facts is deception and thus cheating under Section 415, IPC. Admit-card is a ‘property’ as it has immense value to a candidate. It is not true that the appellant did not go beyond the stage of preparation. The preparation was complete when he had prepared the application for the purpose of submission to the University. The moment he dispatched it, he entered the realm of attempting to commit the offence of cheating. He did succeed in deceiving the University and inducing it to issue the admit card. He just failed to get it and sit for the examination because something beyond his control took place in as much as the University was informed about his being neither a graduate nor a teacher.
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