Facts of the case
On the morning of July 23, 1968, at about 6.30 a.m., PWs 1 and 2 and the deceased boarded bus at Rompicheria for going to Nekarikal. Some minutes later, Accused 1 to 5 also got into the same bus. The accused had obtained tickets for proceeding to Narasaraopet. When the bus stopped at Nekarikal crossroads, at about 7.30 a.m., the deceased and his companions alighted for going to the police station. The five accused also got down. The deceased and PW 1 went towards a choultry. Al and A2 went towards the Coffee Hotel, situated near the choultry. From there, they picked up heavy sticks and went after the deceased into the choultry.
On seeing the accused, PW 1 ran away towards a hut nearby. The deceased stood up. He was an old man of 55 years. He was not allowed to run. Despite the entreaties made by the deceased with folded hands, Al and A2 indiscriminately pounded the legs and arms of the deceased. One of the bystanders, PW 6 asked the assailants as to why they were mercilessly beating a human being, as if he were a buffalo. The assailants angrily retorted that the witness was nobody to question them and continued the beating till the deceased became unconscious.
The deceased succumbed to his injuries at about 4.40 a.m. on July 24, 1968, despite medical aid. Autopsy was conducted by Dr Sarojini in whose opinion, the injuries found on the deceased were cumulatively sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. The cause of death, according to the doctor, was shock and haemorrhage resulting from multiple injuries.
In the scheme of the Penal Code, ‘culpable homicide’ is the genus and ‘murder’ is its species. All ‘murder’ is ‘culpable homicide’ but not vice-versa. Speaking generally, ‘culpable homicide’ sans ‘special characteristics of murder’, is ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’. For the purpose of fixing punishment, proportionate to the gravity of this generic offence, the Code practically recognises three degrees of culpable homicide. The first is what may be called, ‘culpable homicide of the first degree’. This is the greatest form of culpable homicide, which is defined in Section 300 as ‘murder’. The second may be termed as ‘culpable homicide of the second degree’. This is punishable under the first part of Section 304. Then, there is ‘culpable homicide of the third degree’. This is the lowest type of culpable homicide and the punishment provided for it is, also the lowest among the punishments provided for the three grades. Culpable homicide of this degree is punishable under the second part of Section 304.
The academic distinction between ‘murder’ and ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’ has vexed the courts for more than a century. The confusion is caused, if courts losing sight of the true scope and meaning of the terms used by the legislature in these sections, allow themselves to be drawn into minute abstractions. The safest way of approach to the interpretation and application of these provisions seems to be to keep in focus the keywords used in the various clauses of Sections 299 and 300. The following comparative table will be helpful in appreciating the points of distinction between the two offences.
|Section 299||Section 300|
|A person commits culpable homicide if the act by which the death is caused is done –||Subject to certain exceptions culpable homicide is murder if the act by which the death is caused is done –|
|Intention (a) with the intention of causing death||Intention (1) with the intention of causing death|
|Intention (b) with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death||Intention (2) with the intention of causing such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused (3) with the intention of causing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death|
|Knowledge (c) with the knowledge that the act is likely to cause death||Knowledge (4) with the knowledge that the act is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death and without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as is mentioned above|
Clause (b) of Section 299 corresponds with clauses (2) and (3) of Section 300. The distinguishing feature of the mens rea requisite under clause (2) is the knowledge possessed by the offender regarding the particular victim being in such a peculiar condition or state of health that the internal harm caused to him is likely to be fatal, notwithstanding the fact that such harm would not in the ordinary way of nature be sufficient to cause death of a person in normal health or condition. It is noteworthy that the ‘intention to cause death’ is not an essential requirement of clause (2). Only the intention of causing the bodily injury coupled with the offender’s knowledge of the likelihood of such injury causing the death of the particular victim is sufficient to bring the killing within the ambit of this clause. This aspect of clause (2) is borne out by illustration (b) appended to Section 300.
Clause (b) of Section 299 does not postulate any such knowledge on the part of the offender. Instances of cases falling under clause (2) of Section 300 can be where the assailant causes death by a fist blow intentionally given knowing that the victim is suffering from an enlarged liver, or enlarged spleen or, diseased heart and such blow is likely to cause death of that particular person as a result of the rupture of the liver, or spleen or the failure of the heart, as the case may be. If the assailant had no such knowledge about the disease or special frailty of the victim, nor an intention to cause death or bodily injury sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, the offence will not be murder, even if the injury which caused the death was intentionally given.
In clause (3) of Section 300, instead of the words ‘likely to cause death’ occurring in the corresponding clause (b) of Section 299, the words “sufficient in the ordinary course of nature” have been used. Obviously, a distinction lies between a bodily injury likely to cause death and a bodily injury sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. The distinction is fine but real, and, if overlooked, may result in miscarriage of justice. The difference between clause (b) of Section 299 and clause (3) of Section 300 is one of the degree of probability of death resulting from the intended bodily injury. To put it more broadly, it is the degree of probability of death which determines whether a culpable homicide is of the gravest, medium or the lowest degree. The word “likely” in clause (b) of Section 299 conveys the sense of ‘probable’ as distinguished from a mere possibility. The words “bodily injury … sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death” mean that death will be the “most probable” result of the injury, having regard to the ordinary course of nature.
For cases to fall within clause (3), it is not necessary that the offender intended to cause death, so long as the death ensues from the intentional bodily injury or injuries sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature.
According to the rule laid down in Virsa Singh case, even if the intention of accused was limited to infliction of a bodily injury sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature, and did not extend to the intention of causing death, the offence would be ‘murder’. Illustration (c) to Section 300 clearly brings out this point.
Clause (c) of Section 299 and clause (4) of Section 300 both require knowledge of the probability of the act causing death. It is not necessary for the purpose of this case to dilate much on the distinction between these corresponding clauses. It will be sufficient to say that clause (4) of Section 300 would be applicable where the knowledge of the offender as to the probability of death of a person or persons in general – as distinguished from a particular person or persons – being caused from his imminently dangerous act, approximates to a practical certainty. Such knowledge on the part of the offender must be of the highest degree of probability, the act having been committed by the offender without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid.
From the above conspectus, it emerges that whenever a court is confronted with the question whether the offence is ‘murder’ or ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’, on the facts of a case, it will be convenient for it to approach the problem in three stages. The question to be considered at the first stage would be, whether the accused has done an act by doing which he has caused the death of another. Proof of such causal connection between the act of the accused and the death leads to the second stage for considering whether that act of the accused amounts to “culpable homicide” as defined in Section 299. If the answer to this question is prima facie found in the affirmative, the stage for considering the operation of Section 300, Penal Code is reached. This is the stage at which the court should determine whether the facts proved by the prosecution, bring the case within the ambit of any of the four clauses of the definition of ‘murder’ contained in Section 300. If the answer to this question is in the negative, the offence would be ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’, punishable under the first or the second part of Section 304, depending, respectively, on whether the second or the third clause of Section 299 is applicable. If this question is found in the positive, but the case comes within any of the exceptions enumerated in Section 300, the offence would still be ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’, punishable under the first part of Section 304.
It is not disputed that the death of the deceased was caused by the accused, there being a direct causal connection between the beating administered by Al and A2 to the deceased and his death. The accused confined the beating to the legs and arms of the deceased, and therefore, it can be said that they perhaps, had no “intention to cause death” within the contemplation of clause (a) of Section 299 or clause (1) of Section 300. It is nobody’s case that the instant case falls within clause (4) of Section 300. This clause, as already noticed, is designed for that class of cases where the act of the offender is not directed against any particular individual but there is in his act that recklessness and risk of imminent danger, knowingly and unjustifiably incurred, which is directed against the man in general, and places the lives of many in jeopardy.
To say that the attack was not premeditated or pre-planned is not only factually incorrect. The best person to speak about haemorrhage and the cause of the death was Dr P. S. Sarojini who had conducted the autopsy. She testified that the cause of death of the deceased was “shock and haemorrhage due to multiple injuries”.
Modi’s book on Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology: “Fractures are not ordinarily dangerous unless they are compound, when death may occur from loss of blood, if a big vessel is wounded by the split end of a fractured bone”.
The crux of the matter is, whether the facts established bring the case within clause thirdly of Section 300. This question further narrows down into a consideration of the twofold issue:
- Whether the bodily injuries found on the deceased were intentionally inflicted by the accused?
- If ‘so, were they sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature?
If both these elements are satisfactorily established, the offence will be ‘murder’, irrespective of the fact whether an intention on the part of the deceased to cause death, had or had not been proved.
In the instant case, the existence of both these elements was clearly established by the prosecution. There was bitter hostility between the warring factions to which the accused and the deceased belonged. The accused had, therefore, a motive to beat the deceased. The attack was premeditated and pre-planned, although the interval between the conception and execution of the plan was not very long. The accused had purchased tickets for going further to Narasaraopet, but on seeing the deceased, their bete noire, alighting at Nekarikal, they designedly got down there and trailed him. They selected heavy sticks about 3 inches in diameter, each, and with those lethal weapons, despite the entreaties of the deceased, mercilessly pounded his legs and arms, causing no less than 19 or 20 injuries, smashing at least seven bones, mostly major bones, and dislocating two more.
The beating was administered in a brutal and reckless manner. It was pressed home with an unusually fierce, cruel and sadistic determination. When the human conscience of one of the shocked bystanders spontaneously cried out in protest as to why the accused were beating a human being as if he were a buffalo, the only echo it could draw from the assailants was a menacing retort, who callously continued their malevolent action, and did not stop the beating till the deceased became unconscious. Maybe, the intention of the accused was to cause death and they stopped the beating under the impression that the deceased was dead. But this lone circumstance cannot take this possible inference to the plane of positive proof. Nevertheless, the formidable weapons used by the accused in the beating, the savage manner of its execution, the helpless state of the unarmed victim, the intensity of the violence caused, the callous conduct of the accused in persisting in the assault even against the protest of feeling bystanders – all, viewed against the background of previous animosity between the parties, irresistibly lead to the conclusion that the injuries caused by the accused to the deceased were intentionally inflicted, and were not accidental. Thus the presence of the first element of clause thirdly of Section 300 had been cogently and convincingly established.
This takes us to the second element of clause (3). Dr Sarojini, testified that the injuries of the deceased were cumulatively sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. In her opinion – which we have found to be entirely trustworthy – the cause of the death was shock and haemorrhage due to the multiple injuries.
There is, therefore, no escape from the conclusion, that the offence committed by the accused was ‘murder’, notwithstanding the fact that the intention of the accused to cause death has not been shown beyond doubt.
The ratio of Anda v. State of Rajasthan applies in full force to the facts of the present case. Here, a direct causal connection between the act of the accused and the death was established. The injuries were the direct cause of the death. No secondary factor such as gangrene, tetanus, etc., supervened. There was no doubt whatever that the beating was premeditated and calculated. Just as in Anda case, here also, the aim of the assailants was to smash the arms and legs of the deceased, and they succeeded in that design, causing no less than 19 injuries, including fractures of most of the bones of the legs and the arms. While in Anda case, the sticks used by the assailants were not specially dangerous, in the instant case they were unusually heavy, lethal weapons. All these acts of the accused were pre-planned and intentional, which, considered objectively in the light of the medical evidence, were sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
The mere fact that the beating was designedly confined by the assailants to the legs and arms, or that none of the multiple injuries inflicted was individually sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, will not exclude the application of clause thirdly of Section 300. The expression “bodily injury” in clause thirdly includes also its plural, so that the clause would cover a case where all the injuries intentionally caused by the accused are cumulatively sufficient to cause the death in the ordinary course of nature, even if none of those injuries individually measures upto such sufficiency. The sufficiency spoken of in this clause, as already noticed, is the high probability of death in the ordinary course of nature, and if such sufficiency exists and death is caused and the injury causing it is intentional, the case would fall under clause thirdly of Section 300. All the conditions which are a prerequisite for the applicability of this clause have been established and the offence committed by the accused in the instant case was ‘murder’.
For all the foregoing reasons, we are of the opinion that the High Court was in error in altering the conviction of the accused-respondent from one under Sections 302, 302/34 to that under Section 304, Part II, Penal Code.