Every Murder is Culpable Homicide but every Culpable Homicide is not Murder….why?
Culpable Homicide and Murder are two offences under the Indian Penal Code, the distinction between which has always been perplexing. In the scheme of Penal Code, culpable homicide is the ‘genus’ and murder is the ‘species’. All murders are culpable homicide but not vice versa.
Section 299 defines Culpable Homicide. A person is said to have committed culpable homicide if the act by which death is caused is done with the:
a) Intention of causing death
b) Intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or
c) Knowledge that the act is likely to cause death.
The ‘Intent’ and ‘Knowledge’ are the important ingredients of section 299 which is the mens rea necessary for the offence. Unless there is intention or knowledge, the offence is not culpable homicide although death ensues.
Under Section 300 there are four clauses. If a person brings a case within any of the four clauses then Culpable Homicide will amount to Murder. If the case falls under any of the exceptions given under Section 300 then it will be Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder.
The four clauses of Section 300 are:
a) With the intention of causing death, or
b) With the intention of causing such bodily injury which offender knows is likely to cause death, or
c) With the intention of causing bodily injury and the bodily injury inflicted is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, or
d) The act of the person is so imminently dangerous that in all probability it will cause death.
In the first clause the intention of causing death has to be proved. Once it is proved the offence is murder unless it falls under any of the exceptions.
In the second clause the mental element is two-fold i.e. there has to be an intention as well as a subjective knowledge that death will be the likely consequence of the intended injury.
The third clause discards the test of subjective knowledge. For application of this clause firstly an injury has to be caused and then the nature of injury has to be established. If the nature of injury is sufficient to cause death then the offence is established.
The fourth clause does not require any intention. It covers those cases where the person committing the act has knowledge that the act is so imminently dangerous that it will in all probability cause death.
In a landmark judgement Supreme Court had observed that whenever the court has to find out whether an offence is murder or culpable homicide not amounting to murder it should follow three steps. First, a causal connection has to be established between the act of the accused and the death caused. Once this is proved, the next step is finding out whether the act of the accused is culpable homicide as defined under Section 299. If the answer is in the affirmative then the court has to find whether the case comes within the ambit of any of the four clauses of Section 300. If the answer is in the negative then the offence is Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder. If the answer is positive then it is Murder. And also if the answer is in positive but falls within any of the exceptions under sec 300 then also it will be Culpable Homicide not amounting to Murder.
 State v Rayavarapu Punnayya (1976) 4 SCC 382
 R v Govinda ILR 1 Bom 342
 State v Daniel 1971 Ker LJ 182
 Rajwant Singh v State AIR 1966 SC 1874
 Supra note 1