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Explaining the fine line between Murder and Homicide

Explaining the fine line between Murder and Homicide
The word homicide is derived from the Latin termshomi (man) and cido (cut), which means the killing of a human being by another man, when one causes or accelerates the death of another human being such an offence will be constituted as a homicide.

Explaining the fine line between Murder and Homicide


The word homicide is derived from the Latin termshomi (man) and cido (cut), which means the killing of a human being by another man, when one causes or accelerates the death of another human being such an offence will be constituted as a homicide.

The Indian Penal Code describes offences affecting life and deals with homicide offences which are the following -

a)    Culpable homicide

b)    Murder

c)     Death by Negligence

d)    Dowry death

e)    Attempt to commit murder and culpable homicide

f)     Suicide

g)    Thugs


a)   Culpable homicide –

v Section 299 IPC defines Culpable homicide, “Whoever causes death by doing an act with intention of causing death or with intention of causing bodily injury as it is likely to cause death or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause death such an act will amount to culpable homicide”

v Illustration – A lays sticks and turf over a pit intending to cause death or with the knowledge that death is likely to be caused, Z believing the ground is firm stands on it and falls and is killed, here A has committed culpable homicide

v Every murder is a culpable homicide but not every culpable homicide is murder, culpable homicide is the genus and murder are its species, it can either be culpable homicide amounting to murder or culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

v The following are the essential ingredients of culpable homicide – there must be death, the death should have been caused by another person, the act of death should be associated with intention of causing death, or intention of causing bodily injury likely to cause death or knowledge that such act is likely to cause death. (Mens rea)

v A person who caused the injury cannot escape criminal liability of culpable homicide by saying that if the person injured did not suffer from the said disease or disorder he would have not died – E.g.,Mr A had a problem with his heart and his days were numbered now Mr X knowing the problem of Mr A given him a punch near his heart which results in A’s death. Here X will be criminally liable for culpable homicide.

v Basdev v state of pepsu[1] - Accused shot a 16-year-old because he was drunk however court differentiated between motive, knowledge and intention and convicted him.

v Chahat Khan v. State of Haryana[2]When an injury is caused using a lethal or sharp weapon and the deceased has been attacked on a vital organ, then an irresistible inference can be deduced about the intention of the accused.

v Section 304. Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder imprisonment for life, or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

v If the act by which the death is caused is done to cause death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both.


b)   Murder –

v culpable homicide is murder, (Firstly) if the act by which the death is caused is done to cause death, or— (Secondly) —If it is done to cause such bodily injury as the offender knows to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused, or— (subjective knowledge that death will be the likely consequence of the said injury) (Thirdly) —If it is done to cause bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, or— (Fourthly) —If the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury will constitute as murder.

v Illustration - A shoots Z to kill him. Z dies in consequence. Commits murder

v Proof of intention • Action of the person and surrounding circumstances • Motive • Nature of the attack • Nature of weapons • Nature of injury

v Veera Muthu v. the State of Madras [3]The accused who intentionally caused the injury may not be aware that it was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, but if his intention to cause the injury in question is established and the injury is sufficient ITOCN then the accused is guilty of culpable homicide amounting to murder

v  State of MP v. Ram Prasad [4] Man lights wife on fire after an argument- Only knowledge is required, no need to prove intention.

v The following are the exceptions under section 300 when culpable homicide will not amount to murder -

1) Grave and sudden provocation - R v. Ahluwalia[5]: battered woman syndrome (the woman was a victim of domestic abuse so she set her husband’s foot on fire the husband died after five days and her sentence was reduced because battered women under grave and sudden provocation. 

2) Private defence - Mohinder Pal Jolly v. State of Punjab [6] Company workers were demanding salary—the accused fired a shot- the circumstances did not indicate that there was the apprehension of death or grievous hurt---hence he exceeded his right and was made liable u/s 300.

3) Acts of public servants - State of WB v. Shew Mangal Singh [7] Order to shoot was given—there was no occasion to do so- order was illegal and the officers cannot be said to have acted in good faith.

4) Sudden fight - - Surain Singh v. State of Punjab [8] Murder should have been committed without premeditation. It should have been committed in a sudden fight and the Heat of the argument and there should have been a sudden quarrel and it should have been committed without the offender having taken undue advantage or acted cruelly.

Narayanan Nair Raghavan Nair v. the State of Travancore[9]Two people fighting---father-in-law intervened- the benefit of this exception was not extended.

5) Consent - Illustration A, by instigation, voluntarily causes, Z, a person under eighteen years of age to commit suicide. Here, on account of Z’s youth, he was incapable of giving consent to his death; A has therefore abetted murder. Dasrath Paswan v. State of Bihar[10]

c)     Death by Negligence

v This section was introduced in the Penal Code through an amendment in the year 1870. The shade of mens rea which is covered under this section is negligence and rashness.

v Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide (intention or knowledge should be absent), shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

v  • Homicide by negligence • Homicide by murder • Homicide by Culpability Deals with homicide by negligence and covers that class of offences where death is neither caused intentionally nor with the knowledge that by the act of the offender death is likely to be caused, but there is an element of rashness or negligence.

v Emperor v. Abdul Latif [11]-Rashness conveys the idea of reckless or doing an act without due consideration and negligence connotes a want of proper care.

v Sarabjeet Singh v. State of UP [12] In this case the accused came to take revenge on a man, and while he was talking to him in anger, he threw the child on the ground. The SC held that the act of throwing the child is not rash as he knew that his act was such that was likely to cause death. Death must be a direct result of the act.

v  Suleman Rahim Mulam v. State of Maharashtra [13]Man was driving the jeep and he hit the deceased. Later he took him to the hospital for treatment- --but he died thecourt acquitted him of all charges. The act of the accused was sufficient to indicate that there was no rashness or negligence on his part.

v Rash and Negligent act in medical treatment Suresh Gupta Dr. v. Govt of national capital Territory of Delhi [14] The standard of negligence should not merely be lack of necessary care and attention or skill. The standard of negligence should be so high to be described as ‘gross negligence.

v Jacob Mathew v. the State of Punjab[15] The standard to be applied for judging whether the person charged has been negligent or not would be that of an ordinary competent person exercising ordinary skill in that profession.

d)    Dowry Death -

v Whoever commits dowry death shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may extend to imprisonment for life. ? Was amended and inserted in the year 1986. Keeping in view the growing atrocities against women. ? Certain changes have also been made in the Evidence Act in furtherance of the same. (Burden of proof has been reversed) ? The death of a woman is caused by any burns or bodily injury or occurs otherwise than under normal circumstances. (Covers Murders which are shown as Accidents- Sher Singh v. the State of Haryana [16]) ? Within seven years of her marriage, ? She was subjected to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any relative of her husband. ? Shown that soon before her death.

v Sec 2 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 Definition of ‘dowry'. —In this Act, “dowry” means any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly

v State of HP v. Nikku Ram [17]- Demands made after marriage could also be considered as dowry even if asked after the marriage.

Appasheb v. State of Maharashtra[18]-Demand for money for some financial stringency or for meeting some urgent domestic expenses or for purchasing manure cannot be termed as ‘demand for dowry.

v Cruelty - Section 498-A was introduced in the year 1983 to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives. A punishment extending to 3 years and a fine has been prescribed. This offence is a non-compoundable and non - bailable offence. 

v Sec 113B Indian Evidence Act Presumption as to dowry death. —When the question is whether a person has committed the dowry death of a woman and it is shown that soon before her death such woman has been subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry, the Court shall presume that such person had caused the dowry death.

v Rajender Amar Singh v. State of Haryana[19]death occurred after two years of the demand for dowry stopped. Hence acquitted.

State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh [20] the meaning of the term “relative” was in question. Related by blood, marriage or adoption. Can be punished u/s 306.


e)   Attempt to commit murder and culpable homicide

v Section 307 defines an attempt to murder whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge and under such circumstances causes death will be guilty of murder and shall be punished with imprisonment and fine.

v Illustration – A to kill a child, exposes the child in a desert place even if the child does not die, A will be held liable for an attempt to commit murder.

v The act must be capable of causing death to sustain a conviction under this section

v State of Maharashtra v Bodya Ramji Patil [21]– the victim received injuries that were described by the doctor as injurious and was likely to cause death but since it was not sufficient in the ordinary course to cause death section 307 was ruled out

v Liyakat Mian v state of Bihar [22] -knowledge plays a vital role, the accused shot a person from close up which resulted in injuries in the abdomen and the left arm. There was the knowledge that such an act could result in death and therefore the accused was convicted under section 307 IPC.

v Section 308 defines an attempt to commit culpable homicide, A on the grave and sudden provocation shoot Mr X which causes death he would be guilty under this section. Om Prakash v state of Punjab[23]


f)     Suicide

v Section 305 explains the abetment of suicide of child or insane person – if any person who is under 18 years of age, any insane person or intoxicated person commits suicide, whoever abets or persuades this person to commit suicide will be punished with ten years imprisonment and liable to a fine.

v Section 306 explains abetment of suicide – If any person commits suicide and the one who abets the commission of committing such suicide will be punished.

v Gurbanchan Singh v Satpal Singh[24] – newlywed girl committed suicide as she was constantly harassed and tortured for insufficient dowry and set herself on fire here her husband was convicted for abetment of suicide.

v Thangappandian v state[25]– small quarrels will not amount to abetment of suicide.

v Tej Singh v state [26]-Encouraging women to commit sati is held as an abetment to suicide.

v Section 309 – attempt to commit suicide is also an offence because of the presence of mens rea – Emperor v Dwarka Poonja[27]

g)   Thugs

v Section 310 defines thugs as “whoever at any time after passing of this act shall have been habitually associated with any other or others to commit robbery or child-stealing employing or accompanied by murder is a thug.”

v Section 311 describes the punishment for a thug that will be imprisonment for life and shall also be liable for a finethe thugs first kill and then they rob their victims, this makes the habitual association with thugs an offence

v Thugs are no longer applicable and thus sections 310 and 311 have become more or less redundant.



[1]Basdev v state of pepsu, AIR 1956 SC 488 : (1956) I SCR 363.

[2]Chahat Khan v state of Haryana, AIR 1972 SC 2574 : (1973) Cr LJ 36 (SC) : state of Karnataka v vedanayagam, (1995) SCC 231 (Cri): (1995) I SCC 326.

[3]Veera Muthu v state of Madras, (1971) 3 SCC 427: 1971 (III) UJ 430 SC.

[4]State of Madhya Pradesh V Ram Prasad, AIR 1968 SC 881: (1968) 2 SCR 522

[5]R v Ahluwalia (1992) 4 All ER 889.

[6]Mohinder Pal Jolly v State of Punjab, AIR 1979 SC 577: (1979) Cr LJ 584 (SC).

[7]State of West Bengal v Shew Mangal Singh, AIR 1981 SC 1971: (1982) 1 SCR 360.

[8]Surain Singh v state of Punjab AIR 2017 SC 1904: (2017) 5 SCC 796: 2017 (4) scale 394.

[9]Narayanan Nair Raghavan Nair v State of Travancore, AIR 1956 SC 99: (1956) Cr LK 278 (SC).

[10]Dasrath Paswan v state of Bihar, AIR 1958 Pat 190: (1958) Cr LJ 548 (SC).

[11]Emperor v Abdul Latif, AIR 1944 Lah 163.

[12]Sarabjeet Singh v state of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1983 SC529: (1983) Cr LJ 961 (SC).

[13]Suleman Rahiman Mulan v state of Maharashtra, AIR 1968 SC 829: (1968) Cr LJ 1013(SC).

[14]Suresh Gupta (Dr) v Govt of national capital territory of Delhi, AIR 2004 SC 4091: (2004) 6 SCC 422.

[15]Jacob Matthew v state of Punjab, (2005) 6 SCC 1: AIR 2005 SC 3180.

[16]Sher Singh v state of Haryana, 2015(1) scale 250.

[17]State of Himachal Pradesh v Nikku Ram, (1995), Cr LJ 4184 (SC).

[18]Appasheb v state of Maharashtra, (2007) 9 SCC 721: AIR 2007 SC 763.

[19]Rajinder Amar Singh v state of Haryana, (2000) Cr LJ 2492 (P&H).

[20]State of Punjab v Gurmit Singh, (2014) 9 SCC 632.

[21]State of Maharashtra v Bodya Ramji Patil, (1978) Cr LJ 411 (Bom).

[22]Liyakat Mian v state of Bihar, AIR 1973 SC 807: (1973) Cr LJ 584 (SC) : (1973) 4 SCC 39.

[23]Om Prakash v state of Punjab, AIR 1961 SC 1782: (1962) 2 SCR 254.

[24]Gurbachan Singh v Satpal Singh, AIR 1990 SC 209: (1989) Supp 1 SCR 292.

[25]Thangapandian v state, (1998) Cr LJ 993 (Mad).

[26]Tej Singh v state, AIR 1958 Raj 169: (1958) Cr LJ 967 (Raj).

[27]Emperor v Dwarka Poonja, (1912) 13 Cr LJ 264 (Bom). 

Posted On : August 25, 2021

Written By :
Bangalore |

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