Laws relating to Culpable Homicide in India

Homicide is a noun derived from the Latin terms “homo” which means human and “caedere” which means to kill. As the maximum level of bodily pain is done on a human being, homicide is one of the most heinous acts a person can perform.

  • Offences

In India, homicide is classified as either culpable homicide[1] or culpable homicide amounting to murder[2].

In a homicide case, the perpetrator may not always be guilty. This is where the concept of lawful homicide comes from when the accused has a legitimate reason for committing the act. In certain situations, the person is less likely to be prosecuted by the law and may even be excluded from the charges. These can include death as a result of self-defense, a mistake of fact, or a lawfully executed sentence, among other things. Hence Homicide can be both legal and illegal. Justifiable and excusable homicides are examples of lawful homicide. Death through rash and negligent acts [3], suicide[4], or culpable homicide[5] are all examples of unlawful homicide.

  • Definition and section
  • Culpable homicide not amounting to Murder

Section 299, IPC- This is defined as causing death by doing something to cause death or cause bodily injury that is likely to cause death, or knowing that they are likely to cause death by doing something like that.  

Following the bifurcation of the term, three requirements are essential for applying Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code:

  1. The purpose of causing death.
  2. The goal is to inflict bodily injury that is likely to result in death.
  3. With the understanding that such an act will almost certainly result in death.
  4. Culpable homicide amounting to Murder

Section 300, IPC- If the act is done with the intent of causing death or causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause the death of the person, or if the inflicted bodily injury is sufficient enough in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, or if there is the knowledge that the act is so fatal that it can in all probability cause death, it is culpable homicide amounting to murder.

Following the bifurcation of the term, we get at four essentials that must be met in order to apply Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code:

  1. The intent to kill someone.
  2. The purpose to inflict bodily harm that the perpetrator knows will result in the death of the person to whom the harm is inflicted.
  3. With the intent to inflict bodily injury on any person, and the physical injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient to cause death in the normal course of nature.
  4. The person who conducts the act is aware that it is so risky that it will almost certainly result in death or bodily injury that is likely to result in death, and does so without any justification for risking death or injury as mentioned.
  5. Punishment with sections
  6. Punishment for Culpable homicide not amounting to murder (Section 304, IPC)

Section 304 (1), IPC[6]– According to this, whoever causes death with intent or causes bodily injury likely to cause death or with the knowledge that death is likely to be caused as a result of the act is liable to life imprisonment or imprisonment of either kind for a term which might extend to ten years, or would also be liable to fine.

Section 304 (2), IPC[7]– This states that anyone who causes death without intending to cause death or bodily injury that is likely to cause death, or who has no knowledge that his actions could cause death, shall be punished to either type of imprisonment for a time up to ten years, as well as a fine.

If the act that causes death is done without the goal of causing death but with the knowledge that death is likely to occur as a result of the act, the person will be sentenced to either type of imprisonment for a duration of up to ten years, as well as a fine.

  • Punishment for Culpable homicide amounting to murder (Section 302, IPC)

Section 302, IPC[8]– Specifies that anyone who commits murder will face life in jail or the death penalty, as well as a monetary penalty.

However, in the case of Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab[9], it was held that since the court has the option of life imprisonment, it does not have to resort to such a cruel punishment as the death penalty, and hence, the death penalty is given in rarest of rare cases.

  • Exceptions
  • Exceptions to Section 300, IPC-

When an act is done with the aim to cause death, it is considered culpable homicide; however, this principle does not apply in the instances listed below. The following actions may constitute culpable homicide but not murder. Exceptions 1-5 in Section 300 of the IPC’s (d) and (f) illustrations identify circumstances in which culpable homicide does not amount to murder:

  1. It is not culpable homicide amounting to murder if it is perpetrated by a person who loses his or her ability to control themself and kills someone as a result of a serious and rapid provocation.
  2. When an offender causes the death of someone while exercising his right to private defence of person and property in good faith, it is not culpable homicide amounting to murder.
  3. If a public worker kills someone while doing his duties in good faith and believes his actions were legal, it is not culpable homicide amounting to murder.
  4. If a person causes the death of someone in a violent fight in the heat of passion during a sudden argument, it is not culpable homicide amounting to murder.
  5. When a person over the age of 18 dies with his or her own consent, it is not culpable homicide amounting to murder.
  • Case briefs
  • Narasingh Challan vs State[10]:

Narasingh Challan (accused), the son of Sana and Kamali Challan entered his house in a bad mood. He saw Mukunda Challan (deceased) and his neighbour have liquor in his house which was served by his wife. Both the deceased and the neighbour went to their respective homes. Later that night, the accused and his parents came home with bows, arrows, lathis, and chains. They attacked the deceased when he was sleeping in his verandah. The deceased ran for his life and almost 13 other people saw the whole incident and later testified this in court.

The accused was convicted under Section 304 (2), IPC as the mentioned arms like bows, arrows, lathis, and cycle chains are not enough to cause death in all possibilities even though such an intention was present.

The parents of the accused were tried but were acquitted.

  • Rajbir Singh vs State of U.P. & Anr.[11]

Rajbir Singh (complainant) filed an FIR alleging that due to the verbal rift between his father, Hoti Lal, and his neighbor, Ramraj Rathore (Accused), the accused along with two of his accomplices namely, Geetendra Singh and Prem Narain shot and killed his father and one of his customers, in his shop. The accused was harassing his family to not file a complaint and had been terrorizing the whole locality.

The sessions court convicted the accused under Section 302, IPC for the murder of Hoti Lal as this incident fell under the purview of culpable homicide amounting to murder because of the presence of an intention to cause death and the information that a bullet is enough to kill a person.


[1] Section 299, The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[2] Section 300, The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[3] Section 304-A, The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[4] Section 309, The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[5] Supra note 1

[6] Section 304 (1), The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[7] Section 304 (2), The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[8] Section 302, The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[9] Bachan singh v. State of Punjab, (1982), S.C.C. 689

[10] Narasingh Challan vs State 1997 I OLR 243

[11] Rajbir Singh vs State of U.P. & Anr. S.L.P.5896 of 2004

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