Landmark Case Laws on Murder and Culpable Homicide

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1. State of Rajasthan vs Dhool Singh: Magan lodged a complaint with Police Station Pahada alleging that on the previous day at about 9 p.m. the respondent herein Dhool Singh had caused serious injuries with a sharp-edged weapon to Amar Singh, son of Shankar Singh, in a field known as Pahada which incident according to the complaint was noticed by Ramesh. The accused had attacked on the neck of the deceased. He knew that neck is very delicate part of the body and he applied the sharp weapon for such offence. In this case, the Supreme Court held that culpable homicide becomes murder if the attacker causes an injury which he knows is likely to cause death and, of course, consequent to such injury the victim would die.

2. Sarabjeet Singh and Ors. vs State of Uttar Pradesh: The accused did not have good relations with the complainant on account of a sale transaction of a piece of land. He went to the house and assaulted the complainant and the wife. He also picked up the infant child of the complainant and threw him on the ground with force as a result of which the child died. The accused was held guilty of murder. 

3. Reg. v/s Govinda: In this case the accused kicked his wife and knocked her on the ground. He then put one knee on her chest and struck her with two to three more times with a closed fist on the face which resulted in her death. There being no intention to cause death and the bodily injury not being sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, the accused was held for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. When the act is not done with the intention of causing death of the victim, the difference between culpable homicide and murder is a question of the degree of probability of the death following the act. It is culpable homicide where death must have been known to be a probable result; it is murder where it must have been known to be the most probable result.

4. K.M. Nanavati v/s State of Maharashtra: This is a 1959 court case and was among the last cases to be heard as a jury trial in India. Kawas Manekshaw Nanavati, a Naval Commander, was tried for the murder of his wife’s lover, Prem Ahuja. The crux of the case was whether it was a crime of passion, an act committed in the ‘heat of the moment’ or a pre-meditated murder to which Nanavati plead ‘not guilty’. The jury ruled in favour of him (8-1) but the verdict was dismissed by the Bombay High Court and the case was retried as a bench trial. The defence argued that it was a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder as the act was committed “in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel”. However, it was decided that the murder was premeditated and Nanavati was sentenced to life imprisonment for culpable homicide amounting to murder. 

5. Kesar Singh v. State of Haryana: Hardev Singh was a resident of Derabassi. He was a teacher. He and one Karam Chand, came to a village called Budhanpur to meet his father. There was vacant land in front of their house which was in possession of Pala Ram and others. It was a Shamlat land. They were digging foundation. Ujjagar Singh, who was the father of Hardev Singh, asked them to leave some passage for their house. Pala Ram urged that the man should be taught a lesson. Ujjagar Singh shouted for help. Appellant and Karam Chand, on hearing his shouts came out. They saw Kesar Singh giving a Kassi (Spade) blow from the reverse side on the head of Hardev Singh’s father. He fell down. He was taken to primary health centre. However, his condition having deteriorated, he was referred to Medical Sciences and Research, Chandigarh for treatment. He later succumbed to his injuries.

The Court held the distinction between knowledge and intention. Knowledge in the context of Section 299 would, inter alia, mean consciousness or realisation or understanding. The distinction between knowledge and intention is a difference of degree. The accused must be aware of the consequences of his act.

Knowledge is a state of conscious awareness of certain facts in which the mind might itself remain inactive whereas intention connotes a conscious state in which the mind is roused into activity and it jumps up into action for the deliberate purpose of being directed towards a specific end.

6. Kusa Majhi v State of Orissa: The deceased admonished her own son for not going for fishing with the co-villagers. Infuriated on this the accused, the son brought an axe and dealt with the blows on her shoulder and she died. There was no pre-plan of the offence. The blows were not on the neck or head region. The accused dealt blows likely to cause bodily injury which was likely to cause death and he dealt blows on the spur of moment and anger. Therefore, it was held to be a case of culpable homicide.

7. B.N. Srikantiah v. Mysore State: There were as many as 24 injuries on the deceased and of them 21 were incised. They were either on his head, the neck, or the shoulders or on the forearms. Since most of the injuries were on vital parts and the weapons used were short, it was held that the intention of causing bodily injuries was established, bringing it under the cover of Section 300.

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