The Supreme Court on Wednesday held though it is often difficult to distinguish between culpable homicide and murder as both involve death, but there is a subtle distinction of intention and knowledge involved in both crimes.
A bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and S. Ravindra Bhat said: “It is often difficult to distinguish between culpable homicide and murder as both involve death. Yet, there is a subtle distinction of intention and knowledge involved in both the crimes. This difference lies in the degree of the act. There is a very wide variance of degree of intention and knowledge among both the crimes.”
The top court made the observation while altering the conviction of a man, who was earlier convicted for murder of a a sub-inspector in Madhya Pradesh, to the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. It also modified the sentence from life imprisonment to a 10 year jail term.
“This court is of the opinion that the appellants should be convicted for the offence punishable under the first part of Section 304 IPC, as he had the intention of causing such bodily harm, to the deceased, as was likely to result in his death, as it did,” said the bench, citing that man’s conviction under Section 302 IPC was not appropriate.
The bench noted that question of whether in a given case, a homicide is murder, punishable under Section 302 IPC, or culpable homicide, of either description punishable under Section 304 IPC, has engaged the attention of courts in this country for over one and a half century, since the enactment of the IPC.
The top court verdict came on a petition filed by Mohd Rafiq, challenging the Madhya Pradesh High Court order, which had confirmed his conviction and sentenced him to life imprisonment for the offence of murder.
On March 9, 1992, information was received that a truck had broken the Forest Department barrier and collided with a motorcycle. The prosecution alleged that Sub Inspector D.K. Tiwari motioned the truck, which was driven by the accused, to stop, but the accused accelerated the vehicle. The police officer boarded the truck and the accused pushed him. The officer fell off and was run over by the vehicle.
The top court noted it was not proved that the appellant, with deliberate intent, drove over the deceased and he knew that the deceased would have fallen beneath the vehicle, so that the truck’s rear tyre would have gone over him.
“In these circumstances, it can, however, be inferred that the appellant intended to cause such bodily injury as was likely to cause SI Tiwari’s death. The act resulting in SI Tiwari’s death was not pre-meditated,” it held.