Section 304 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Explained!
According to the first para of the section whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term extending up to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, if the act by which the death is caused is done either with the intention of causing death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely or to cause death; or, according to the second para, whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term extending up to ten years, or with fine, or with both, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but there is no intention on his part to cause death, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.
In other words, section 304 prescribes punishment for the cases falling under the first, second and third clauses of section 299 and the five exceptions of section 300 of the Code. One important question here is as to why does this section write. “……….. with the intention of causing death…………. ” in the first para whereas it has been seen while comparing the first clauses of sections 299 and 300 that when death is caused with the intention of causing death it will always be a case of murder under the first clause of section 300.
The answer is that whenever death is caused with the intention of causing death it will be a case of murder under the first clause of section 300 but in such a case if the accused successfully pleads any of the five exceptions to section 300 in his defence in cases where he caused death with the intention of causing death, the fact remains that death has been caused with the intention of causing death but the accused is also entitled to the benefit of the exception which he has pleaded. Such a crime will thus obviously come under the first clause of section 299 and will thus be punishable under section 304, Part I.
In view of whatever has been said above the first part of section 304 uses, inter alia, the words “with the intention of causing death” The crime of culpable homicide not amounting to murder is known as manslaughter in English law.
In Chanda Lai v. State, the accused persons had caused death of two persons belonging to the complainant’s side. The finding of the trial court as to the absence of evidence of causing any injury after the deceased had fallen down was not set aside by the High Court. Deaths resulted due to head injuries. One of the accused persons had also sustained head injury.
The incident had taken place about twenty years ago. The accused persons were acquitted in the year of the incident. Even though they were convicted in appeal after eight years, they were granted bail three months after their conviction. Their conviction under section 304 Part I read with section 34 was altered to one under section 304 Part II read with section 34. They were sentenced to the period already undergone by them.
They were also sentenced to a fine of three thousand rupees each and in case they failed to pay the amount, they were required to serve out the whole sentence. In Ramesh Laxman Pardesi v. State,- there was an exchange of hot words between the accused and the deceased and the accused gave one blow resulting in death of the deceased.
It was held that the seven years’ rigorous imprisonment which he had already undergone for this culpable homicide not amounting to murder was sufficient punishment under the circumstances. In Sunder Singh v. State, the accused was held guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder but since he was an old man of seventy-six years of age, the period of imprisonment already served by him was held to be sufficient under the circumstance.
In Gurdip Singh v. State, where the accused was held guilty of causing the death of the deceased but there was no intention to cause death on his part, it was held that seven years’ rigorous imprisonment would be an adequate punishment against him. Where a husband was convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder of his wife under section 304 Part II in a case of matrimonial torture by putting pressure on her spleen and pancreas, it was held that the sentence of five years’ rigorous imprisonment passed against him would meet the ends of justice.
On the other hand, in a case of police brutality where a police officer was held guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under section 304 Part II by using third-degree methods against the deceased, a sentence of seven years’ rigorous imprisonment was awarded to him. In State v. Ram Sagar Yadav the deceased had filed a complaint against a policeman for extorting a bribe from him which had infuriated the policemen who later booked him on a false charge of dacoity, took him into a thana and mercilessly beat him there causing his death.
The trial court found the policemen guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder but the High Court acquitted them. The Supreme Court restored the original conviction, regretted that the trial court had not held them guilty of murder, and recommended in its judgment that the law relating to burden of proof in cases of police atrocities should be re-examined so that policemen who themselves were witnesses in such cases are not allowed to interfere with evidence.
In Sudhir Samanta v. State of West Bengal, the accused persons formed an unlawful assembly and armed with lathis, spear etc. they assaulted the complainant and his son. Prior to the incident the accused had asked the complainant more than once not to cut the crop but await adjudication by court. The accused gave a single blow by lathi on the head of the deceased, and later another accused hit the deceased by lathi. The deceased was alive for about 32 hours after the incident. The Supreme Court held that the accused was guilty under section 304, Part II and not under section 304, Part I of the Code.
In State of Bihar v. Ramnath Prasad, the accused allegedly administered poisonous substance by way of ‘prasad’ to the deceased and others who were on relay fast. The motive to kill was not established by the prosecution since the ‘prasad’ was given openly and not in a concealed manner. The Supreme Court ruled that there was no intention to cause death but the accused had knowledge that by administering poisonous substance he was likely to cause grievous hurt and even death, and thus he was guilty under sections 304, Part II and 326 of the Code.
Where the accused persons were held guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for causing the death of the deceased, each of the accused was sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment and each of them was also directed to pay three thousand rupees as fine to be paid to the widow of the deceased as compensation.
But on the other hand, where the accused had objected to the deceased harvesting the accused’s crop for which the deceased had assaulted the accused and then the accused killed the deceased by attacking him by tangia and lathi for which he was convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentenced to eight years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of one thousand rupees, it was held that the period of imprisonment already served by him was sufficient under the circumstances and the fine was set aside.
In Kundan Singh v. State the deceased married woman was having an illicit relationship with a man which her family members and relatives resented. She continued the affair even after the death of her husband and the resentment of her own son and other relatives also continued. She was beaten by shoes and sticks by her relatives for the same a day before the occurrence. On the day of the incident they lured her to another house and again beat her by shoes and sticks as a result of which she died.
It was held that common intention to cause death could not be inferred from the evidence but common intention to beat the deceased was apparent and since the accused persons could be presumed to know that the consequences of such hard beating was likely to result into death, and death in fact did result, they were all liable under section 304 Part II read with section 34 and their sentence was reduced to that already undergone by them.
Where it was probable that the appellants were in possession of a piece of land, on which the complainant’s party trespassed and attempted to plough it, and in the altercation and the fight that ensued one member of the complainant’s party was killed and others injured, it was held that the appellant had exceeded his right of private defence and his convictions for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and attempted murder were correct but the sentences passed against him were reduced from ten years’ rigorous imprisonment to five years on the first count and from seven to three years’ rigorous imprisonment on the second.
In State v. Mohinder Singh, the accused tried to molest an innocent woman who took lift in his vehicle. The woman was run over by a truck and killed as she tried to come out of the moving vehicle. The Supreme Court ruled that the reduction of the sentence by the High Court was not proper particularly when the accused was on bail throughout and served only two and a half months in jail. But the offence having been committed long ago, he was not sent to the jail again but the amount of fine on him was enhanced heavily.
In Tamilmani v. State? the accused girl, unable to bear the beatings given to her brother, stabbed the deceased by a knife at the spur of the moment. The injury was sufficient to cause death in the ordinary course of nature. It was held that the accused had no intention to cause death, but she must be deemed to have knowledge that death might be caused, and since only a single blow was inflicted on non-vital part of the body her conviction under section 302 should be altered to one under section 304 Part II, and the sentence deserved to be reduced to the period of imprisonment already undergone.
In Sukhpal v. State of Ì.Ð., one Major and four constables in the Special Armed Forces assaulted and caused death of the deceased as she had lodged a complaint against them to their superiors. The Supreme Court reduced their sentence under section 304 Part II, on the basis of section 299 (3), from rigorous imprisonment for five years to that for three years, but the Major was asked to pay Rs. 20,000/- and the four constables Rs. 10,000/- each as fine to the heirs of the deceased as compensation.
In K. Ramakrishnan Unnithan v. State of Kerala, the accused had given only one hard blow causing the intestine of the victim severe damage resulting in his death. He was punished under section 304, Part II. Since more than 13 years had elapsed and the accused had already undergone imprisonment for about four years, the Supreme Court reduced the sentence to the period already undergone.
In Shamsher Khan v. State (NCT of Delhi), the Supreme Court held that by manufacturing a bomb alone no one can normally think that it would explode without anything more done. Here something more would have happened which caused the explosion. What was that additional act is unknown. It was also not proved that the appellant had done that additional act. So the conviction under sections 304 and 308 of the Code was liable to be set aside but the conviction under section 120-B of the Code and section 5 of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 and section 4(b) of the Explosive Substances Act would remain.
In Naval Kishore Singh v. State of Bihar, the appellant was convicted by the Sessions Judge under sections 302/34 and the High Court converted the same under section 304 without specifying under Part I or Part II of section 304. The evidence by the prosecution showed that the appellant had caused death of the young boy in a cruel and brutal manner. The Supreme Court was not inclined to interfere with the sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.
In Laxman v. State of Madhya Pradesh arrows were shot by the accused from a distance, not with accuracy. One arrow killed the deceased. The Supreme Court altered the conviction of the accused from under section 302 to one under section 304, Part I.
In Prakash v. State of Madhya Pradesh? accused persons armed with lathis chased the unarmed deceased. Witnesses intervened and tried to pacify them. The appellant and the co-accused jumped over a hedge to reach near the deceased. The appellant immobilised the deceased by attacking his legs while the co-accused inflicted other injuries including the fatal one. The Supreme Court held that the appellant’s common intention was evident and his conviction under Sections 304, 34 was proper.
The deceased was first examined by a doctor in the Primary Health Centre who noticed a single head injury while the doctor performing the autopsy noticed injuries on head, back and left shoulder. The Court observed that this was not inconsistent because the doctor in the Primary Health Centre attended only to the most important emergency i.e., the head injury.
In Shakti Dan v. State of Rajasthan the accused son caused death of his mother by throttling her. The incident happened after the mother tried to advise the accused son that he should not treat his wife cruelly. The Supreme Court held the accused guilty under section 304 Part I of the Code.
In Radhakrishna v. State of Uttarakhand spurious alcohol containing poison was sold by the accused. Some persons including the deceased died after consuming the same. The Supreme Court stated that knowledge can easily be inferred to the accused and, therefore, conviction under section 304 Part II should be maintained.
In Dayanand v. State of Haryana gunshot fired by the accused hit the deceased on the waist causing his death. The Supreme Court held him guilty under section 304 Part II. Clause wise distinction between sections 299 and 300 was also explained by the Court.
In Ramchandra Dhondiba Kaware v. State of Maharashtra? the accused gave a single blow by yoke to the deceased out of enmity. The Supreme Court held him guilty of under section 304 Part I of the Code.
In Bhola v. State of Himachal Pradesh? the appellant and other allegedly gave fist blows on the deceased and hit him with stone on his head resulting in his death. The Supreme Court held their conviction under section 304 Part I, proper.
In Ongole Ravikanth v. State of Andhra Pradesh, the accused husband was proved to have lit the match stick when his deceased wife herself had poured kerosene on her own body. The trial court convicted him under section 324 of the Code even though wayward habits of the accused husband resulting in frequent quarrels between him and the deceased wife was proved and it was also proved that the deceased wife had suffered sixty percent burns.
The High Court convicted the accused under section 304 Part I. The Supreme Court expressed anguish about the manner in which the matter was dealt with by the trial court and upheld the judgment of the High Court.
Conviction under section 304 Part II read with section 34, whether possible
The Supreme Court in State v. Afrahim Sheikh, where several offenders by diverse acts and with prior concert chased the deceased, threw him on to the ground and beat him to death, was seized of the question as to whether a conviction under section 304 Part II, which is a conviction on the basis of knowledge of the consequences of one’s act, read with section 34, which is a principle of joint liability on the basis of a common intention of several persons, is legally valid or not.
It was held that the second part no doubt speaks of knowledge and does not refer to intention which has been segregated in the first part, but knowledge is the knowledge of the likelihood of death. Can it be said that when three or four persons start beating a man with heavy lathis each hitting his blow with the common intention of severely beating him and each possessing the knowledge that death was the likely result of the beating, that the requirements of section 304 Part II are not satisfied in the case of each of them when the victim dies? If it could be said that knowledge of this type was possible in the case of each one of the assailants, there is no reason why section 304 Part II cannot be read with section 34.
The common intention is with regard to the criminal act, that is to say, the act of beating. If the result of the beating is the death of the victim and each of the assailants possesses the knowledge that death is the likely consequence of the criminal act, that is to say, beating, there is no reason why section 34 or section 35 should not be read with the second part of section 304 to make each liable individually. In view of the above there is no doubt that a conviction under section 304 Part II read with section 34 is legally valid.
The Supreme Court has reiterated the principle in Dalip Singh v. State where there was a custodial death in police custody. The accused policemen shared the common intention to beat the deceased violently and as a result of the beating the deceased died. It was held that the policemen must be attributed the knowledge that by inflicting such injuries they were likely to cause death and hence they were guilty under section 304 Part II read with section 34 of the Code.
In Chavda Jivanji Chelaji v. State of Gujarat, over a property dispute between the accused and the deceased, the deceased was assaulted by the accused persons in the field of the deceased. Some of the accused were armed with sticks and some with dharia (a stick with a sickle shaped metal fitted at the top). The only injury which caused the death of the deceased was incised wound inflicted on the left humerus which cut the artery and vein.
The question was as to whether any one of the accused would have intended to inflict that injury. The eye-witness sometimes said that the deceased was standing and at other times that he was running and was surrounded by the assailants.
The Supreme Court stated that in view of the above one particular injury on humerus could not be said to be a wound specifically intended by the assailant by whose hand that injury was caused and, therefore, the offence did not fall under clause 3 of section 300, and thus the conviction was altered to one under sections 304 Part 11/34.
The criminal liability was fastened only on those accused who possessed dharia and not on others who were armed with sticks. These others were held guilty under section 447 along with the other accused armed with dharia.
The offence under section 304 is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable and is triable by court of session.