Crime is defined as an act or omission that amounts to an offence that is punishable by law, at the time of being enforced. This definition indicates that all the stages of a crime i.e intention, preparation, attempt and completion are fulfilled in a positive or a negative act. Traditionally this view has been applied to all types of offences, but some offences were very grave and conviction only on successful completion was not sufficient. Murder is one such example. It is one of the most heinous crimes and the one that is a contender for the death penalty. Hence keeping this in mind, the fear caused to the victim and the fact that the attempter is a threat to his or her life the IPC under Section 307 recognises ‘Attempt to murder.
Attempt to murder – Section 307 (IPC)
The offence of attempt to murder is a very serious crime with only one distinction from murder since here the victim survives. The crime for attempted murder can be charged when the person who intends to commit murder tries doing the same but for some reason is unable to accomplish it. It can also be called ‘Attempted Murder’. Attempted Murder (Section 307) is a very interesting section since it is similar to some other sections of IPC like Sections 324 – 326; all of these offences have the same common ingredients hence at times it becomes very difficult to differentiate between the same.
Ingredients of Attempted Murder
Nature of the Act
In order to commit an offence of attempted murder, an act should be done which must be capable of causing death in the ordinary course of nature. The Supreme Court in the case of Vasan Jadhav vs. State of Maharashtra (2004), had observed that to justify a conviction under Section 307 it is not essential that bodily injury capable of causing death has to be inflicted. Although injury caused often gives considerable assistance in finding the intention of the accused, such intention may also be deducted from other circumstances, and in some cases be ascertained without any reference at all to actual wounds.
Read our article on- Difference Between Murder And Culpable Homicide
Intention and Knowledge
Intention, especially ‘evil intention’ in any court of law is not an offence nor are they punishable because of the simple fact that it cannot be proved sufficiently. When an intention is accompanied by a criminal act, it constitutes a crime. Hence, here intention to kill is needed to be proved clearly beyond a reasonable doubt. To prove this, the prosecution can make use of the circumstances like an attack by dangerous weapons on vital body parts of the victim. The intention or knowledge of the accused must be such as is necessary to constitute murder. Without this ingredient being established, there can be no offence of “attempted murder”.
Although the offence of ‘attempted murder’ considers the fact that the act was not completed yet for the sake of proving it is important that the same was executed.
A purchases a sword.
At this point ‘A’, although fulfils the 2 stages of crime i.e. intention and preparation yet doesn’t fall within the ambit of Section 307.
‘A’, tries to cut ‘B’ using the sword.
The moment ‘A’ uses the sword on ‘B’ he completes the stage of attempt irrespective of the fact that it cuts ‘B’ or not.
To convict a person of ‘Attempted Murder’ the harm intended to cause should be such that it can cause death. If the intent was either to frighten or maim then this section doesn’t apply.
‘A’ tries to cut ‘B’s leg with the sword.
Here, the leg is not so much a vital part as compared to a head, chest or stomach hence the court after reviewing other evidence may not consider this as an ‘Attempted Murder’.
Nature of Offence
Attempted Murder under IPC Section 370 is a Cognizable, Non-Bailable and Non-Compoundable offence. These terms mean as follows:
Attempted Murder is a cognizable offence which means the police is empowered to arrest a person without any warrant.
They also have the authority to start an investigation in the case with or without any permission of the magistrate solely based on the FIR filed.
Attempted Murder is a Non-Bailable offence which means that the magistrate is empowered to refuse a bail application and can also remand the accused to judicial or police custody.
However, it should be known that bail can be granted. The same will differ from case to case and factors such as prior criminal record, allegation raised, and whether the weapon was recovered from the accused’s house or not will be considered in granting the same.
Attempted Murder is a Non-Compoundable offence that restricts the petitioner from withdrawing the same at his or her will.
Punishment for attempt to murder
The Punishment that is provided under Section 307 of IPC for Attempted Murder will depend on the extent and also on whether the accused is a life convict or not.
Here 3 scenarios are needed.
- The accused attempted to commit murder of the victim but the victim was able to dodge the attack without any injuries caused to him/her. The punishment as per the section is imprisonment that will extend to 10 years and also fine.
- The accused attempted to commit murder of the victim but was successful in only causing injuries. The punishment as per the section is imprisonment for a time period varying from 10 years to life imprisonment along with a fine.
- The accused who attempted to commit murder of the victim is already a life convict or convicted for life imprisonment. The punishment in the words of the section is “may be punished with the death penalty”.
However, the courts have the power to reduce the quantum of the sentence if certain conditions are met and the Court is satisfied that by reducing the sentence the ends of justice are met.
Attempts to murder in different countries
Section 239 of the Criminal Code makes attempted murder punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment. If a gun is used, the minimum sentence is four, five or seven years, dependent on prior convictions and relation to organised crime.
In America attempt to murder is classified into degrees. First degree attempted murder means the person intentionally, and with premeditation, tried to kill someone else; while Second degree attempted murder means the accused acted without premeditation or acted in a fit of passion.
England and Wales
In England and Wales, attempted murder is an offence under Section 1(1) of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981 and is an indictable offence that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The penalty for murder is the same.
In Scotland, attempted murder is the same as the offence of murder in Scottish law with the only difference being that the victim has not died. The punishment for attempted murder is life imprisonment.
Attempt to murder under Section 307 is a well-established offence. But the same collide a lot with other sections like Section 308, Section 324, Section 326 and Section 511. This makes the task of the judiciary difficult and hence the cases drag for years. If one relies on the principle of justice delays is justice denied, this section is a good example of the same since it causes delays to the court to deliver a final judgment. Then there is another difficulty faced by the courts while proving intention though all courts rely on the nature of the injury and the weapon used for preparation. But it has been seen that in some cases the dangerous weapon used to inflict simple injury has not been covered under Section 307. Viewing the contradictory nature of this offence it can be safely said that the judges use the weapon, nature of injury and preparation as cues to conclude and the same may differ from case to case.