Question: A, a minor stepson of B (stepmother of A) was deliberately starved and ill-treated by B while the father of A was out of the station. As a result of starvation, his health deteriorated. He was not allowed to contact anybody outside the house and he was not provided any medical treatment. One day, finding that B was absent from the house, A escaped from the house and managed to reach the civil hospital of the place. He narrated his story to the doctor and was admitted as an indoor patient. B attempted to take A back to his house but she was not allowed to do so. The condition of A was serious and it took about ten months of hospital treatment to recoup him. Has B committed any offense? If so, what offense? Give reasons and also refer to relevant provisions and case law, if any, on the point. [WBJS. 1984]
Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [A, a minor stepson of B (step mother of A) was deliberately starved and ill-treated by B while the father of A was out of the station. As a result of starvation, his health deteriorated. He was not allowed to contact anybody outside the house and he was…]
Yes, B (the stepmother of A) has committed the offense of an attempt to murder made punishable under Section 307, IPC.
Section 307 which defined and makes Attempt to murder punishable is divided into two parts:
First part: Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and
Second Part: If the hurt is caused to any person by such act, the offender shall be liable either to imprisonment for life or to such punishment as is hereinbefore mentioned.
Therefore, in order to constitute an offense under this section, two elements are essential:
- First, the intention or knowledge to commit murder.
- Secondly, the actual act of trying to commit the murder.
Thus, it must have both the necessary mens rea and actus reus. Here, in the present case, the mens rea can be gathered from the fact that B had deliberately starved and ill-treated the minor son A ad the actus reus was not giving food to A with this intention.
So, both actus reus and mens rea are present in the case of B to prove his commission of an attempt to murder under the section.
The act towards the commission of the murder need not be a single act. Nor does it mean that the immediate effect of the act committed must be death. Such a result must be the result of that act whether immediately or after a lapse of time.
The word ‘act’ does not mean only any particular specific instantaneous act of a person, but denotes, according to Section 33, a series of actions as well.
In Om Parkash v. State of Punjab AIR 1961 SC 1782 it was observed that when an accused deliberately starved his wife and denied food to her for days together and did not allow her to leave his house, it was held that the course of conduct adopted by the accused in regularly starving the wife in order to accelerate her end, came within the purview of section 307, though it was not the last act, which if effective, would cause death.
The facts of the present case are borrowed from the case of Om Parkash Tilak Chand v. The State [AIR 1959 P H 134]. The court observed that the question to be considered in cases under Section 307, Indian Penal Code, is, whether the act or omission of the accused person amounted to an attempt to commit the offense.
An attempt in order to be a criminal need not be a penultimate act. It is sufficient in law if there is present an intent coupled with some overt act in execution thereof. For purposes of criminal liability, it is sufficient, if the attempt had gone so far, that the crime would have been completed, but for extraneous intervention which frustrated its consummation.
According to Stephen, “an attempt to commit a crime is an act done with an intent to commit that crime, and forming part of series of acts which would constitute its actual commission if it were not interrupted”.
Therefore, the accused was held liable for an attempt to murder.
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