There are certain acts, omissions and crimes which are ancient. These have been carried on for time immemorial and have survived the different civilisations and revolutions. These are the black spots of humanity that have faded to a certain extent but have not disappeared. One such crime is Homicide. Homicide is a term that is derived from a Latin term meaning “men killing men”. It is one of the most dreadful acts as it is the highest order of bodily injury that can be inflicted on a human, which is the reason why regulations related to the same are grave, for example, culprits are usually sentenced to life imprisonment or death penalty which are the most extreme punishments given by the judiciary. All the incidents whenever a human was killed due to the act or omission of another human will be called homicide. But the same is Culpable i.e. punishable or not, and is to be called a murder or not depends on the legal definition and exceptions. Culpable Homicide is like genes having a wider meaning and scope than that of Murder which can be seen as a species with a narrow meaning. In India, the IPC i.e. the Indian Penal Code defines Culpable Homicide and for this purpose, it divides the same into 2 categories:
1) Culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 299 of the IPC.
2) Culpable homicide amounting to murder
All murders are Culpable Homicide but the same is not true vice-versa and has to be provided under two different heads.
When not amounting to murder
Provided under Section 299 of the IPC, this section is very much identical to Section 300 that is Murder. The term ‘Likely’ in this Section plays a crucial role by stating the element of ambiguity. It raises a doubt that the act of the accused may or may not kill a person in the present. This is not the same in the case of murder where the word likely is not mentioned indicating any chance of ambiguity. This means the act or omission will definitely cause death.
There are some essentials in this Section that have to be satisfied.
- Causes Death – This death is of a human being and excludes the death of an unborn child. It’s not necessary that the one whose death has occurred was the one whose death was intended.
- Caused by doing an act – An act here includes illegal omissions. An omission is illegal if it is an offence and in some direction is a breach of law. The act should be of such a nature that it can endanger life or negatively affect the body to such an extent that the person would die. Death can be caused in different ways like poisoning, starving, shooting, striking, drowning, etc.
- Intending to cause death or bodily injury likely to cause death – Intention plays a very critical role in determining the course of the act. It is inferred from the act, corroboration of facts and the circumstances of the case.
The intention here means the expectation of a consequence. The accused wants to ensure that particular results follow by acting in such a manner that death is caused in reality. Thus, if one pushes someone for a joke but the person falls on his head causing brain injury and dies, there was no intention of causing death but when one pushes a person deliberately with the idea that the person falls and dies, in this case, the act is to cause death. To decide whether the bodily injury is likely to cause death or not, three things are to be seen: part of the body where the injury was caused; nature of injury; and the nature of the weapon.
- Knowledge – Knowledge is a powerful word, which indicates certainty and not merely probability. It is different from intention since here it refers to personal knowledge of the accused, about an act that will or is likely to cause death.
When it amounts to “Murder”
Provided under Section 300 of the IPC, Murder is a slightly narrower type of Culpable Homicide. All the essentials of a Culpable Homicide are to be fulfilled here as well but we especially look for the factor “in all probability”. It is subjected to several exceptions namely:
- Grave and sudden provocation.
- The excessive exercise of the right of private defence.
- Public servant acting in good faith.
- An act committed in a sudden fight.
- Consent in case of passive euthanasia.
The prosecution must prove 4 things, First, the bodily injury is present. Second, the nature of the injury must be proved. Third, it must be proved that there was an intention to inflict that particular bodily injury, lastly, the consideration must be proved that the injury of the type is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature.
Difference Between Murder And Culpable Homicide
There is a thin line of difference between the two, which often confuses a person to determine which type of offence is caused.
The distinction between these 2 can be traced from the ‘fault elements’ which can be labelled as an intention to cause death and knowledge that the act would cause death. These have to be proved to a higher degree under Murder. If the person is killed in a cold-blood way or with planning, then it is murder because the intention to kill is in a high degree. On the other hand, if the victim is killed without pre-planning, and falls within the exception then the same is called culpable homicide. Hence, whether the act done is culpable homicide or murder is determined by questioning the fact.
For committing Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years, and fine and the same is provided under Section 304. For committing Culpable Homicide amounting to murder the punishment is the death penalty or imprisonment for life and also liable to pay fine. And the same is provided under Section 302.
The aggravating and mitigating factors play a vital role in determining the quantum of punishment that would be awarded by the Court. Only in cases that are ‘rarest of rare and the cruelty is very high will the court award a death sentence otherwise most murder cases, a life sentence is awarded. The meaning of the expression ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ also is important and if not satisfied may stand in the way of conviction. Its absence determines the confidence of the judge and presence can be made use of, by the accused at times even to be acquitted.
Despite the parallelism of culpable homicide and murder, they are distinct in their way. Intention and knowledge are very strong terms in proving the case in favour of culpable homicide and murder. To constitute a murder, first culpable homicide has to be fulfilled with additional terms in all probability. The intensity and degree of murder are much higher like hitting someone with a stick and hitting someone with a knife is totally different.