When it comes to dealing with crimes, India’s criminal justice system adheres to the Indian Penal Code. The Indian Penal Code’s structure manages crime via justice and retribution. Due to the impact of English Law, Section 299 of the original Indian Penal Code had provisions for culpable homicide. Any act or physical injury committed by a person with the purpose to cause death is covered under Section 299 of the Criminal Code. The provision of culpable homicide not amounting to murder is covered under Section 304 of the IPC. This section focuses on crimes that are committed with the purpose to cause death but do not really accomplish so. There were no provisions for handling deaths brought on by carelessness in the original Penal Code. Act 27 of the Indian Penal Code, passed in 1870, and introduced Section 304A and 304B as an amendment. Section 304 (a) of the IPC will be thoroughly covered in the next article.
According to Section 304(a):
“Whoever causes the death of any person by engaging in any reckless or careless conduct not amounting to culpable murder must be punished with imprisonment of either sort for a time which may extend to two years, with fine, or with both.”
Any conduct that violates Section 304(a) of the IPC is a bailable offence. The court in this situation permits the offender to post bail by paying a surety sum and a bail bond at the police station. The fact that this offence is also compoundable allows the plaintiff and defendant to come to an understanding through legal representation and avoid a trial. This frequently happens in instances involving strong corporations that would settle instead of having a public trial.
The Law’s Guidelines for Negligent Murder
Due to the unique circumstances of each instance, the law establishes limits while still leaving room for interpretation. It is critical to comprehend these phrases and their diverse implications since Provision 304(a) utilizes the phrase “rash or negligent act” as the determining criterion to prosecute someone under this section.
1-First of all, the aforementioned conduct should be considered the causa causans, or direct cause, of the death, rather than just the causa sine qua non, or incidental act. As a result, for the plaintiff to succeed in the action there must be a clear connection between the conduct and the death or harm it caused.
2-Second, a negligent conduct and a reckless act fall under different categories of liability for the defendant with respect to the plaintiff. A careless conduct is a violation of responsibility that inadvertently harms or damages another person. A rash act, on the other hand, is the result of quick judgments and carelessness on the side of the defendant.
3-Thirdly, reckless behaviour usually constitutes illegal behaviour. Depending on the seriousness and kind of the crime, as well as the level of intention or lack thereof in a given situation, a negligent conduct may be civil or criminal in nature.
Several important rulings in instances involving Section 304(a) of the IPC
Punjab State v. Jacob Mathew, ANR 2005
The family of Jivan Lal, who was hospitalised to and later passed away at CMC Hospital in Ludhiana, served as the case’s plaintiffs. Jacob Matthew and Allen Joseph, two doctors, attended to the deceased. The physicians were accused with criminal negligence. The plaintiffs alleged that the doctor’s purchase of an oxygen cylinder for their father was negligent. The patient, according to the defence, had advanced cancer. Due to his declining condition, he was not supposed to be admitted to any hospitals. A medical practitioner cannot be held accountable if they are according to recognised medical practise, the Supreme Court argued in favor of the physicians, noting that the plaintiff must demonstrate that the medical professionals acted “in disregard of the life and safety of the patient.” They cannot be criticized for not utilizing a different strategy that may or may not have produced the intended outcome. Only one of the two scenarios allows for them to be charged.
1-If they lack the ability required for their trade.
2-The threshold stated here would be of an ordinarily competent individual if they failed to demonstrate reasonable competence while doing their duties.
Gujarat State v. Somabhai Mangalbhai Dabhi, 1988
The accused was found guilty of the killing of a 10-year-old child by the session judge. He was accused of operating a motor bus negligently under section 304 (a) of the IPC. The girl “ran out onto the road,” according to the defence. The girl appearing out of nowhere and the driver’s use of the wrong side of the road as well as insufficient proof. The session’s court thus imposed a 500 rupee fine in addition to a two-year term of RI on the defendant. Probation was permitted by the Supreme Court after considering the facts of the case.
State of Maharashtra v. Alister Anthony Periera, (2012) 2 SCC 648: On Carter Road, which runs beside the sea in Mumbai, the appellant is accused of murdering seven individuals. In this instance, the Supreme Court ruled that even if the driving was hasty and irresponsible, the accused must have known that such a course of conduct may result in death; only then would she be punished in accordance with Section 304 Part II of the IPC and not Section 304A.
In the case of Mahadev Hari Lokre v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1972 SC 221), the appellant, who was not driving recklessly, was not found responsible for the death of a pedestrian who was unexpectedly crossing the road and came under the wheels of his car. If a person abruptly crosses the road, no matter how cautious and slowly a guy may be driving, he cannot prevent a collision
In order to provide the claimants with some sense of justice, the Section 304(a) clause of the IPC is crucial. If there was a breach of duty that resulted in irreparable harm or loss of life or property, it could provide them with some closure or at the very least recompense them. There are various holes in Section 304A that require filling through revisions. In instances involving medical malpractice, this clause is ineffective. For it to be used effectively, it requires a few reforms. The penalty outlined in Section 304A is also judged to be inadequate. There have been calls for extending the sentence from two to five years in a number of different circumstances. The benefit of section 304A of the IPC is that it makes it easier to tell apart a crime from which the defendant or accused has no purpose or knowledge. It becomes crucial to demonstrate that the defendant has no desire to conduct a crime in order to apply this clause.
Das P, “Section 304 a – Death by Negligence : Law and Legality” (Legodesk, January 13, 2019) <https://legodesk.com/legopedia/304a-ipc-causing-death-by-negligence/> accessed November 4, 2022
MAKENT, “IPC Section 304A – Causing Death by Negligence” (Lawtendo.com) <https://www.lawtendo.com/indian-kanoon/ipc/section-304a> accessed November 4, 2022
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