This Article is written by Pooja Lakshmi pursuing (BBA-LLB Third year at Bennett University, Greater Noida)
Table of Contents
Murder happens when a person is killed by another person or a group of people with the planned intent to end the former’s life, whereas homicide occurs when a man is killed by another man, hence all murders are culpable homicides but not all homicides are murders. If an act is done with the aim to cause death and the accused knows that it will result in death, it is considered a culpable homicide. If a person is aware that his act is risky and likely to result in death or bodily injury but yet proceeds and commits the offence, this is considered murder. An intent to cause death, doing an act that is likely to cause death, or doing an act with the knowledge that the act is likely to cause the death of another are all ingredients of murder. Every act that results in death is not murder; in fact, it may be a crime even less serious than culpable homicide, such as causing harm or injury by negligence.
Murder – Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code
A person commits murder when the death results when it is committed with intention of causing death and is aware that such bodily injury cause the death of the harmed person. It is important to note that mere intention to cause bodily injury to any person and such bodily injury inflicted is with the intention and is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. Further, the person causing death must be aware of the fact that the act is imminently dangerous as it causes death directly or the probability of death with such bodily injury is high.
Culpable homicide – Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code
A person commits culpable homicide if the act that results in death is done with specific exceptions. If the act that causes the death is done with the aim of causing death and producing bodily injury that is likely to cause death, it is considered a culpable homicide.
Exceptions where culpable homicide is not considered as murder
Grave and sudden provocation, private defence, the exercise of legal power, without premeditation in the sudden fight, and consent in case of passive euthanasia are some of the exceptions where culpable homicide is not considered murder.
Excusable homicide Vis-A-Vis Justifiable homicide:
Homicide is the illegal and unlawful act when someone dies as a result of an intentional act, and whoever causes death by doing something with the goal of causing death, or causing physical injury that is likely to cause death, or knowing that it is likely to cause death by doing something, commits culpable homicide. A person who causes bodily injury to someone who is suffering from a condition, disease, or bodily infirmity and thereby accelerates death is held to have caused the death. When death is caused by bodily injury, the person who causes the bodily injury is held to have caused the death, even if the death could have been avoided by using adequate medicines and skilled care. Furthermore, it is not considered culpable homicide to cause the death of a child in the mother’s womb. Causing the death of a living child, however, may constitute culpable homicide if any portion of that child has been brought forth, even if the infant has not yet breathed or been properly born.
Melvil J. clarified the distinction between sections 299 and 300 in Reg. vs Govinda, where the accused had knocked his wife down, placed one knee on her chest, and struck her two or three violent blows on the face with the closed fist, causing extraversion of blood on the brain, and she died as a result, either at the moment or very subsequently, despite the fact that there was no intent to cause death and the bodily injury not being sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. Thus, in this case, the defendant was found guilty of culpable homicide that did not amount to murder.
In-State of A.P. v. R. Punnayya, Sarkaria J. clearly illustrated the contrast between the two: “In the framework of the Penal Code, ‘culpable homicide is genus and murder is specie.” All murders are culpable homicides, but not the other way around.
The appellant in Dakhi Singh V. State was a constable of the Railway Protection Force who, while on duty, accidentally killed a fireman while firing bullets to arrest the thief, and the constable was entitled to benefits under this clause of culpable homicide in case of a public servant.
In Radhey Shyam And Anr. V. State Of Uttar Pradesh, the appellant became enraged when he learned that his calf had arrived at the deceased’s residence, and he began abusing the deceased. When the latter tried to stop him, the appellant fired at the deceased, who was unarmed at the time, indicating that the appellant intended to kill the deceased and thus he was held liable to murder.
There is a fine line between murder and culpable homicide, and courts have struggled to make that distinction, despite the fact that the final result is the same, and the intent behind the crime is the most crucial component to consider. The death penalty must be imposed based on the act of the criminal rather than the crime committed, and the doctrine of proportionality of sentence in relation to the crime. The victim and the offender have been the focus of the courts’ attention over the years. At present, the death penalty is only awarded to rarest of the rare cases as enshrined in Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab and only after noting the unique reason for imposing the ultimate punishment, which cannot be reversed under any circumstances after it has been carried out is rewarded. For doubt to stand in the way of a judgement where the accused is held guilty, there must be a genuine and reasonable doubt, and if the evidence leaves the trial judge in doubt, the judgement must give importance to the burden of proof.
 1876 ILR Bom 342
 (1976) 4 SCC 382
 (1980) (2 SCC 684