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The offence of Culpable Homicide has been defined under Chapter XVI of the Indian Penal Code. Since, it is the largest chapter under the code, spread over 88 sections, it actually denotes the importance that is attached to the Right of Life and Liberty that has been granted under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.


From earliest times, this offence has been considered as the most heinous one. It is the highest order of bodily injury and means KILLING OF HUMAN BEING BY A HUMAN BEING. However, there are exceptions too, wherein killings are not termed to be homicides. Like, killing in self-defense, or in pursuance of lawful authority, or by accident or misfortune, or by doing an act in good faith with no criminal intention, etc.

It is important for the criminal liability to be direct and distinct that the casual connection between the act and death must not be too remote, though it is also not necessary that it should be immediate. In cases wherein death is a remote and improbable consequence of the act which brought it about, the law withholds criminal liability except where the death was intended. [Section 300(2), IPC].

Sometimes, some other causes which are distinct from and independent of the injury my intervene to prevent the death from being treated in law as homicide, though the connection between the death and the injury maybe direct and distinct. Also, death is not always caused by the act only, but sometimes omissions also may lead of the offence being committed. Because the idea of killing by an omission implies the possibility of doing an act whose omission causes death. Killing by an omission is in no case a criminal offence, unless there is a legal to do an act which has been omitted.


Homicide maybe either Lawful (Culprit set free), or Unlawful (Culprit held criminally responsible for the act). The distinction between the two depends on whether the offender’s act was intentional, careless or otherwise.

Lawful homicide is further divided into Excusable [ Committed with no criminal intention or knowledge, included in Chapter IV of the code i.e. General Exceptions, Sec 76-106 , examples include death by accident or misfortune, death caused by child or person of unsound mind or intoxicated person, death caused unintentionally when act is done in good faith for benefit of person] and Justifiable homicide[ A homicide being considered in law as justified, if the death is caused [ Examples of such acts include Believing one to be bound by law in good faith, acting pursuant to a lawful authority, acting in pursuance of judgment or order, judge acting judicially, act done with no criminal intention and to avert harm to person or property, and a person exercising right to private defense.

Unlawful homicide is classified into different categories according to the nature and gravity of the offence, its heinousness in order to attach punishment. Like, Culpable homicide [ Sec 299, 301 IPC ], Murder [ Sec 300, IPC ] , and so on. The distinguishing features of these homicides are degree of intention, knowledge or recklessness with which a particular homicide is committed.


The IPC has defined Culpable Homicide firstly and then Murder. The homicide is termed to be the genus and the offence of murder as species. All murder is Culpable Homicide, but all Culpable Homicide is not murder. Culpable Homicide is further divided into two classes i.e.

  • Culpable Homicide amounting to murder,[ Sec 300 ] and

  • Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder [ Sec 300 , exceptions 1-5]

For the purpose of fixing punishment, 03 types of homicides have been recognized, i.e., 1st degree [ gravest form, murder ], 2nd degree [ culpable homicide not amounting to murder], and 3rd degree [ defined in Sec 299, clause 3 ]

The first kind of Unlawful Homicide has been defined under Section 299, which states that whoever causes death by doing an act which is likely to cause death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury which is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause death by such an act, is said to commit the offence of Culpable Homicide. Thus , it purports to define as to when an act of causing death constitutes culpable homicide.

The important elements herein are-

. Causing of death

. By doing an act

. The act of causing death must have been done-

  • With the intention of causing death

  • With the intention of causing bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or

  • With the knowledge that such act is likely to cause death

The mental element actually holds a great importance in the offence of culpable homicide.

In order to hold a person liable for this offence, there should be causing of the death of a human being as defined under Section 46 of the code. Further, causing of death must be of a living human being which means a living man, woman or a child and at least partially an infant under delivery or just delivered [ Causing of death of a child in the Mother’s womb is not homicide as stated in Explanation 3 of Sec 299, but he can sued under Sec 312[ causing miscarriage] or Sec 315, depending on gravity of injury.

Further, in some cases, death of other person is caused, whose death was actually not intended. So, in those cases also, the provisions of Sec 299 can be attracted, as it suffices the death of the human being. There can be other instances also wherein death can be caused due to effect of words in particular circumstances. In these scenarios also, the accused will be liable to the same extent of causing death as if he caused death due to physical assault. Rationale behind it being the willful doing of something which is likely to produce evil.

However, a person cannot be held liable under Sec 299, if he causes the death of a person while doing an unlawful act, provided he did not intend to kill or cause death by doing an act that he knew was likely to have that effect. Because since the act in itself is innocent, to punish the person who does it because of the bad consequence, which no human wisdom could have foreseen, it would actually be in the highest degree, barbarous and absurd.

Sec 301 of the code talks about the concept of Transfer of Malice, i,e, causing the death of a person other than the one whose death was intended. Plus the punishment for the offence of Culpable Homicide has been provided under Sec 304 of IPC, which runs as, whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extent to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine , if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that such act is likely to cause death.

Next comes Sec 300 of the code, which talks about the offence of murder. Mostly the offence of murder and culpable homicide are linked. But minute differences exist between the two i.e. the offence of murder is more grave in nature, the injury is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death, the injury is inflicted with the intention to cause death, and the imminently dangerous that it is in all probabilities, likely to cause death.

However, certain exceptions too exist to this rule of Sec 300, which makes the offence that can be stated as murder, an offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. These exceptions include situations like being deprived of the power of self-control, grave and sudden provocation, causing death by mistake or accident, exercising right of private defense, something done by a public servant in the obedience of law, without premeditation, sudden fight and something done in the heat of passion, and when someone being above the age of 18 years suffers death or takes the risk of death.

Punishment for the offence of murder has been given under Sec 302 of code, which runs as, Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death , or with the imprisonment for life ,and with fine. In addition to that, Sec 303 of the code talks about the punishment for murder by life convicts , which says that when a person is under sentence for imprisonment of life, and he/she commits murder , then that person shall be punished with death.

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