Jai Prakash v. State (Delhi Administration) [1991 SC]

Brief facts

A single blow was inflicted on the chest with knife and the same proved to be fatal. Conviction under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

Law on Clause Thirdly of Section 300:

Clause Thirdly consists of two parts. The first part is that there was an intention to inflict the injury that is found to be present and the second part that the said injury is sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature.

Under the first part the prosecution has to prove from the given facts and circumstances that the intention of the accused was to cause that particular injury. Whereas the second part whether it was sufficient to cause death is an objective enquiry and it is a matter of inference or deduction from the particulars of the injury. The language of Clause Thirdly of Section 300 speaks of intention at two places and in each the sequence is to be established by the prosecution before the case can fall in that clause.

The ‘intention’ and ‘knowledge’ of the accused are subjective and invisible states of mind and their existence has to be gathered from the circumstances, such as the weapon used, the ferocity of attack, multiplicity of injuries and all other surrounding circumstances. The framers of the Code designedly used the words ‘intention’ and ‘knowledge’ and it is accepted that the knowledge of the consequences which may result in doing an act is not the same thing as the intention that such consequences should ensue.

Firstly, when an act is done by a person, it is presumed that he must have been aware that certain specified harmful consequences would or could follow. But that knowledge is bare awareness and not the same thing as intention that such consequences should ensue. As compared to ‘knowledge’, ‘intention’ requires something more than the mere foresight of the consequences, namely the purposeful doing of a thing to achieve a particular end.

It can thus be seen that the ‘knowledge’ as contrasted with ‘intention’ signify a state of mental realisation with the bare state of conscious awareness of certain facts in which human mind remains supine or inactive. On the other hand, ‘intention’ is a conscious state in which mental faculties are aroused into activity and summoned into action for the purpose of achieving a conceived endIt means shaping of one’s conduct so as to bring about a certain event.  Therefore, in the case of ‘intention’ mental faculties are projected in a set direction. Intention need not necessarily involve premeditation. Whether there is such an intention or not is a question of fact.

In Clause Thirdly the words “intended to be inflicted” are significant. As noted already, when a person commits an act, he is presumed to expect the natural consequences. But from the mere fact that the injury caused is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death it does not necessarily follow that the offender intended to cause the injury of that nature. However, the presumption arises that he intended to cause that particular injury.

In such a situation the court has to ascertain whether the facts and circumstances in the case are such as to rebut the presumption and such facts and circumstances cannot be laid down in an abstract rule and they will vary from case to case. However, as pointed out in Virsa Singh’s case, the weapon used, the degree of force released in wielding it, the antecedent relations of the parties, the manner in which the attack was made that is to say sudden or premeditated, whether the injury was inflicted during a struggle or grappling, the number of injuries inflicted and their nature and the part of the body where the injury was inflicted are some of the relevant factors.

These and other factors which may arise in a case have to be considered and if on a totality of these circumstances a doubt arises as to the nature of the offence, the benefit has to go to the accused. In some cases, an explanation may be there by the accused like exercise of right of private defence or the circumstances also may indicate the same. Likewise there may be circumstances in some cases which attract the first exception. In such cases different considerations arise and the court has to decide whether the accused is entitled to the benefit of the exception, though the prosecution established that one or the other clauses of Section 300 IPC is attracted. In the present enquiry we need not advert to that aspect since we are concerned only with scope of Clause Thirdly of Section 300 IPC.

…..the approach has been to find out whether the ingredient namely the intention to cause the particular injury was present or not and it is held that circumstances like sudden quarrel in a fight or when the deceased intervenes in such a fight, would create a doubt about the ingredient of intention as it cannot definitely be said in such circumstances that the accused aimed the blow at a particular part of the body. When an accused inflicts a blow with a deadly weapon the presumption is that he intended to inflict that injury but there may be circumstances like those, as mentioned above, which rebut such presumption and throw a doubt about the application of Clause Thirdly. Of course much depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.

…..in all these cases, injury by a single blow was found to be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. The Supreme Court took into consideration the circumstances such as sudden quarrel, grappling etc. as mentioned above only to assess the state of mind namely whether the accused had the necessary intention to cause that particular injury i.e. to say that he desired expressly that such injury only should be the result.          It is held in all these cases that there was no such intention to cause that particular injury as in those circumstances, the accused could have been barely aware i.e. only had knowledge of the consequences. These circumstances under which the appellant happened to inflict the injury it is felt or at least a doubt arose that all his mental faculties could not have been roused as to form an intention to achieve the particular result.

We may point out that we are not concerned with the intention to cause death in which case it will be a murder simpliciter unless exception is attracted. We are concerned under Clause Thirdly with the intention to cause that particular injury which is a subjective inquiry and when once such intention is established and if the intended injury is found objectively to be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, Clause Thirdly is attracted and it would be murder unless one of the exceptions to Section 300 is attracted.

If on the other hand this ingredient of ‘intention’ is not established or if a reasonable doubt arises in this regard then only it would be reasonable to infer that Clause Thirdly is not attracted and that the accused must be attributed knowledge that in inflicting the injury he was likely to cause death in which case it will be culpable homicide punishable under Section 304 Part II IPC.