Section 314 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Explained!
The explanation attached to the section states that knowledge on the part of the offender that the act is likely to cause death is not essential to this offence. The prosecution must prove that the offender had an intention to cause miscarriage of a woman with child. It must also be proved that he has done any act which has caused the death of such woman.
The punishment provided under the first part of the section, though severe, is less than that provided under the latter part where death is caused by an act with the intention of causing miscarriage of the woman with child without her consent. The explanation quite significantly explains, and rightly so, that whether the act is done with the knowledge of likelihood of causing death or not is of no importance at all.
Since the section does not mention any mens rea with respect to causing of death, all deaths whether voluntary, involuntary, rash or negligent are covered under this provision. Where, therefore, the accused persons administered a poisonous drug with the intent to cause miscarriage of a woman with child, and it was not proved that the accused knew that the drug was likely to cause death, it was held that they were still guilty under this section.
The Supreme Court has held that where the accused was charged under section 314 read with section 109 of the Code for abetting a person to cause miscarriage of a woman with child, and he was not put on notice at any stage of the trial that he would be put on trial for having abetted the woman herself, the conviction of the accused for abetting the woman to cause miscarriage on herself was not proper as there was likelihood of the accused being prejudiced in his defence thereby.
In another case, the accused nurse attempted to cause miscarriage of a woman but was unsuccessful. On the third day another person who was alone with the deceased administered some treatment for two hours resulting in abortion ultimately. The deceased was removed to the hospital about five days thereafter as her condition deteriorated, and she died after a few days of septicemia which had developed through ruptures and tears in the internal parts of the vagina.
There was no evidence that the ruptures and tears were caused by the accused. The conviction of the accused under section 314 was set aside. But in Maideen Sab v. State death of a woman was caused by abortion. The son-in-law of the deceased had left her at the house of the accused doctor. Her dead body was found in that house.
There was an extra-judicial confession of the accused before three witnesses. The accused who had absconded after the incident surrendered in the court. Medical evidence was absent because the dead body had been buried and had decomposed. The chain of circumstances was established duly. The court confirmed the conviction of the accused under section 314 of the Code.
In Jacob George v. State of Kerala the deceased, who desired an abortion, was admitted in the hospital of the accused, a homoeopath. She died a few hours after an operation. The evidence of a cousin of the deceased who had accompanied her to the hospital played a vital role in the entire episode supporting the prosecution case. His version as to the date and time of death was corroborated by the post mortem report which showed that her uterus got perforated because of scientific gadget employed by the untrained accused.
The defence plea that the cousin of the deceased had tried to cause miscarriage by crude means and that she was admitted in a serious condition for emergent treatment in the hospital of the accused was belied by the accused’s failure to report that matter to the police. The abortion was also not for any permissible cause. The Supreme Court held the accused guilty under section 314 of the Code and increased the amount of fine from Rs. 5,000/- to Rs. 1 Lakh to bring up reasonably well the child left behind by the deceased.
In Surendra Chauhan v. State, a person alleged to be having illicit relations with the deceased took her to the clinic of a doctor with intent to cause her miscarriage. The woman died during the course of the abortion. The doctor was not competent to terminate pregnancy nor was his clinic approved by the government under section 4 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and it did not have basic facilities for abortion. The Madhya Pradesh High Court held that a common intention for an offence under section 314 between the accused and the doctor existed and so conviction under sections 314/34 was proper.
The offence under section 314 is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by court of session.