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This is an exhaustive article on section 299 of the Indian Penal Code with the help of various landmark case laws.
Introduction: Meaning and Definition of Section 299 of IPC
Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is about culpable homicide. Before we move towards understanding culpable homicide, first let’s discuss homicide.
The word homicide is made up of two words i.e. ‘homi’ and ‘cide’. ‘homi’ means man or human being and ‘cide’ means cutting or killing. So, homicide is the killing of a human being. Now, the killing of a human being by another human being i.e. Homicide is not always punishable under IPC,1860, if it comes within the sections 76-106 chapter IV of IPC i.e. General exceptions.
Types of homicide
Homicide can be divided into two parts. First is justified or lawful homicide which comes under general exception (chapter iv) and second is unjustified/unlawful homicide which comes under sections 299,300, 304a & 304b, etc.
Here we are concerned with unlawful or criminal homicides (i.e., homicides that are neither excused nor justified). All homicides are not culpable homicide but all culpable homicides are homicides. So we can here infer that homicide is the genus and culpable homicide is its species. That is the reason why ‘homicide’ a Latin term is called the generic term.
Meaning of culpable homicide
In a homicide, there is a relationship between cause and death but the guilty mind is absent. Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea it means, the act does not make a man guilty, unless his intention was so. When a homicide is committed with a guilty mind, that homicide would be culpable homicide or murder. The difference between culpable homicide and murder lies on the point of the degree of intention and knowledge.
When homicide is done with guilty intention or knowledge and that intention or knowledge is of the highest degree, then it is murder.
Here are two conditions that must be fulfilled to commit the offense of culpable homicide and murder as follows:-
- There must be a cause-effect relationship;
- Guilty mind (actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea).
Section 299 culpable homicide –
“Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide”.
Essentials of section 299
The essentials ingredients of section 299 culpable homicide are :
- There must be the death of a person ;
- The death should have been caused by the act of another person and
The act causing death should have been done with :
- The intention of causing death; or
- The intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death; or
- With the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause death.
Illustrations of section 299
- A lays sticks and turf over a pit, with the intention of thereby causing death, or with the knowledge, that death is likely to be thereby caused. Z believes the ground to be firm, treads on it fall in, and is killed. A has committed the offense of culpable homicide.
Simplification of illustration a–
A has committed offence of culpable homicide because all the essential ingredients of section 299 are being fulfilled here as follows :
- There must be the death of a person, here z’s death is caused;
- The death should have been caused by the act of another person, here z’s death is caused by the act done by a (cause-effect relationship). The cause of z’s death is, the effect of an act done by a;
- Guilty mind, here a laid sticks & turf over a
pit, with the intention of causing death, or with the knowledge that death is likely to be thereby caused.
Note: intention or knowledge to cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause the death of a particular person is not required to commit the offense of culpable homicide. Like in illustration (a) of section 299, a did not have the intention or knowledge to cause the death of z particularly.
- A knows z to be behind a bush. B does not know it, a, intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely to cause z’s death, induces b to fire at the bush. B fires and kills z. Here b may be guilty of no offense, but a has committed the offense of culpable homicide.
Simplification of illustration b –
- There must be the death of a person, here the death of z is caused ;
- The death should have been caused by the act of another person, here the death of z is caused by b (who did not have intention or knowledge to kill z)
- Here a knows z to be behind a bush. A also has intention or knowledge that such firing by b is also likely to cause z’s death. That’s why a has committed the offence of culpable homicide.
- A, by shooting at a fowl with intent to kill and steal it, kills b, who is behind a bush; a not knowing that he was there. Here, although a was doing an unlawful act, he was not guilty of culpable homicide, as he did not intend to kill b or to cause death by doing an act that he knew was likely to cause death.
Simplification of illustration c –
- There must be the death of a person, here b has died ;
- The death should have been caused by the act of another person, here the death of b is caused by the act of a;
- But here a did not have the intention to cause the death of b, also a did not have any intention or knowledge to cause such bodily injury that is likely to cause the death of b.
Here the guilty mind of a is absent, so a is not liable for committing the offense of culpable homicide.
Explanations of section 299
Three explanations have been defined under section 299. These explanations further clarify what will be treated as culpable homicide and what not.
Explanation 1- A person who causes bodily injury to another person who is labouring under a disorder, disease, or bodily infirmity, and thereby accelerates the death of that other, shall be deemed to have caused his death.
Example: N was suffering from a disease, M could not see N in such a situation so he accelerates the death of N. And N died in consequence of an act done by M.
Here M cannot escape criminal liability of culpable homicide by stating that if N did not suffer from the said disease or disorder, he would not have died.
Note: N’s death is caused by the act of M, not by his disease. Also, M has no intention to cause the death of N, but he is presumed to have the intention (desire & foresight of consequences ) or knowledge (foresight of consequences) that he is likely by such act to cause the death of N.
Explanation 2 – Where death is caused by bodily injury, the person who causes such bodily injury shall be deemed to have caused the death, although by resorting to proper remedies and skilful treatment the death might have been prevented.
Example: Death of C was caused by the bodily injury inflicted by D. D says that by resorting to proper remedies and skilful treatment the death of C might have been prevented. But this cannot be a ground for negating the guilt or culpability of D who inflicted injury in the first place. D has committed the offense of culpable homicide.
Explanation 3– The causing of the death of a child in the mothers’ womb is not homicide. But it may amount to culpable homicide to cause the death of a living if any part of that child has been brought forth, though the child may not have breathed or been completely born.
Example: Child Y was killed in her mother’s womb, this is not a homicide. But when any portion of Y, comes out of the mother’s womb, even Y is not fully born, and death is caused to Y, then it would amount to culpable homicide.
Landmark cases on Culpable homicide
The Empress v. Ganesh Dooley & Gopi Dooley
Facts: a snake charmer exhibited a venomous snake in public. He knew that the fangs of the snake had not been extracted. Without the intention of causing harm to anyone, he wants to show his own skill. He placed the snake on the head of one of the spectators. The spectator in trying to push off the snake was bitten and died in consequence.
Decision: the snake charmer was held guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Reason: sometimes even gross negligence may amount to knowledge.
Palani Goudan v. Emperor
Facts: husband struck a violent blow on the head of his wife with a ploughshare. His wife became unconscious. He thought his wife died but she was merely unconscious. So for concealment of his own crime and the true cause of her death, he hanged her. She died due to hanging.
Decision: the madras high court held that the accused cannot be convicted either of murder or culpable homicide, but definitely, be punished for committing an assault on his wife and also for attempting to create false evidence by hanging her.
Reason: the court observed that the accused had no intention of causing death while giving a blow to his wife’s head. Hence, no mens rea was being found on the part of the accused.
It was not shown that the blow was likely to cause death and the cause of death of the deceased was asphyxiation by hanging.
In Re Thavamani case
Facts: facts of this case are divided into two stages –
Stage i – in the first stage accused has the intention to cause death. Accused hit the Meenakshi Achi when she was in her flower garden. They thought that she had died. But in reality, she was merely unconscious.
Stage ii– after believing her death they threw her into well to conceal evidence. She died in well.
Comment: the second stage was the continuation of the first stage.
Decision: The Madras High court held that the accused was liable for murder.
Reason: from the very beginning accused had an intention to cause the death of Meenakshi Achi. The accused hit the deceased with the intention of causing death. Even if the intention at stage ii of the transaction had been merely to dispose of a dead body, the two stages of the same transaction are so closely connected in time and purpose that they must be considered as parts of the same transaction.
Note: in the Palani Goudan case, the accused did not have the intention to cause the death of the deceased, but from the very beginning accused had an intention to cause bodily injury, and also it was not shown or proved by the public prosecutor that such bodily injury was likely to cause death.
But, in In Re Thavamani case, the accused from the very beginning has an intention to cause the death of the accused.
Few other cases & their ratios
Moti Singh & Anr. v. State of UP
- Primary cause and death should not be too remote.
- Death of deceased must be caused by the act of
Jayaraj v. State of Tamil Nadu
- Three degrees of mens rea are present as far as the offence of culpable homicide is concerned :
- An intention to cause death;
- An intention to cause dangerous bodily injury is likely to cause death and
- The knowledge that the act is likely to cause death.
Joginder Singh v. State of Punjab
- The accused was about 15-20 feet away from the victim when the victim jumped into well.
- There was no cause-effect relationship.
- It means the death of the victim must be caused by an act of the accused.
Kesar Singh v. State of Haryana
Whether there is an intention or not is a question of fact.
Jagriti Devi v. State of Himachal Pradesh
- A guilty intention or knowledge is essential to the offence under section 299.
- “intent” and “knowledge” in section 299 postulate the existence of a positive mental attitude which is of different degrees.
Mohd Arif v. State of Uttaranchal
- No hard and fast rule can be laid down for determining the existence of intention.
Nankaunoo v. State of Uttar Pradesh
- “Intention” compared with “Knowledge”, requires something more than the mere foresight of the consequences, namely the purposeful doing of a thing to achieve a particular end.
Culpable homicide and murder both are offences affecting life under IPC,1860. But the difference between the two lies at the point of gravity or degree of intention to cause death or intention or knowledge to cause such bodily injury which is likely to cause death. Also, all murders are culpable homicide but all culpable homicides are not murder.
 The Empress v. Ganesh Dooley & Gopi Dooley (1880) ILR 5 Cal 351
 Palani Goudan v. Emperor [1919 ILR 547 (Mad)]
 (1943) 2 MLJ 13
 Moti Singh & Anr. v. Sate of UP 1964 AIR 900, 1964 SCR(1) 688
 Jayaraj v. State of Tamil Nadu AIR 1976 SC 1519: (1976)Cri LJ 1186(SC).
 Kesar Singh v. State of Haryana 15 SCC 753: 2008(6) SCALE 433.
 Jagriti Devi v. State of Himachal Pradesh: AIR 2009 SC 2869.
 Mohd Arif v. the State of Uttaranchal 11 SCC 497 : (2009) Cr LJ 2789 (SC).
 Nankaunoo v. State of Uttar Pradesh 3 SCC 317: AIR 2016 SC 447.