Culpable Homicide under Indian Penal Code

By Adv. Apurva Chodanker


The word culpable homicide is a combination of two Latin terms one is “culpabilis” which literally means worthy of blames and the second term “homo” which means a man and “caeder” which means to kill or cut. So, when these two words are put together mean “worthy of blame for the killing of a human being”. Any crime to constitute the main ingredients are guilty mind and guilty act i.e. mens rea and actus reus. Many authors, writers, scholars have different opinions on culpable homicide and murder because these two penal offenses are confusing in the Indian Penal Code. Known scholars, writers, jurists, professors have stated that culpable homicide is “genus and murder is its species”. Sir James Stephen is of the opinion that these two definitions that are culpable homicide and murder are deficient/defective parts of the code. These two definitions are a mirror to each other and often are difficult to differentiate between because the phrase “causing of death” is common in both. However, culpable homicide and murder are distinct and both are depending upon the severity and gravity of the offenses or the manner in which the crime is committed.  Chapter XVI OF IPC 1860, from Sec. 299- Sec. 377 deals with offenses relating to the human body. In this article, we will be discussing section 299 specifically.

Lawful & Unlawful Homicide

Homicide is considered either as lawful homicide or as unlawful homicide.

Lawful Homicide is listed under the general exceptions of IPC. They are

  1. Death caused by accident whether without any criminal intention Or with information of doing the lawful act and taking proper care and caution.
  2. Death caused by justifiable under the following circumstances
    • A person bound by law 
    • The judge in a judicial capacity 
    • A person obeying the order or decree of the court
    • An act done by a person justified himself 
    • Harm to person or property
    • Right of private defense 
  1. Death is caused by the child, the person who is insane or is under the influence of drugs.
  2. When the death is caused unintentionally in good faith thinking it was for the good of the person killed when
    • He is a minor, lunatic and there is express and implied consent of his/her parent or guardian
    • When the death is caused due to incapacity of consent

Unlawful Homicide includes murder, rash, negligent acts, and suicide.

Culpable Homicide [Sec. 299 IPC]

This section states that

  • any person who causes the death of a person by an act or 
  • with the object/aim to cause bodily injury with the expected end result would be death or 
  • knowing that his actions will cause the death of the person 
  • is said to have committed the offense.

To further simplify, in Sec.299 of IPC there are 3 essential ingredients. They are (i) intention (ii) bodily injury (iii) knowledge. The culprit should have an intention. The culprit must have caused bodily harm or injury to the person and lastly, he must have done the act knowing that his actions will cause the death of the person.


I. Sam digs a pit hole, covers it with dry grass leaves making it look as if nothing was dug. With the intention to cause the death of Pintu. Pintu not knowing that there is a pit hole walks over it, falls, and dies. Sam is liable for culpable homicide.

II. Rex is aware that Jill is behind the bush. Maddy doesn’t know it. Rex with the purpose to kill Maddy force Jill to fire behind the bushes and Maddy is killed. In this illustration, Jill may not be liable for killing Maddy but Rex is liable for culpable homicide.   

There are 3 explanations to Section 299 IPC.

Explanation I

This explanation states the person who causes another injury, who is disabled or suffering from any kind of disorder, that speeds up the death are considered to have caused death.

Explanation II

This explanation states that if the death is due to bodily injuries then it is considered that such person has caused the death, even if proper remedies were taken and good treatment was given the death could be prevented.

Explanation III

This explanation states that when the child is in the womb of the mother and death is caused it is not considered to be a homicide. But when the death of a living child is caused then it may amount to culpable homicide. Further, the child is visible during the natural delivery of the pregnant lady regardless of the fact that the child has not breathed or is completely born.


Under sec.299 the use of word intention is done in a normal way volitional act without knowing the result with certainty. An act is called intentional when the end result is desirous and the criminal/ culprit already knows the consequences of his action. When any act is anticipated or the person who commits the crime knows that the situation is inevitable and, in such circumstances, there is no difficulty arises because we can conclude by saying that the act was done with intention.

Under sec. 299 IPC we cannot say that there was any planning to kill the person. The mere intention at the spear of the moment is enough to establish an intention to kill a person. The requirement that the act of the person will result in death is enough to constitute intention. The general rule is that every person knows that his act will either result in a good or bad situation. Hence intention or knowledge is important under this section.

Landmark Cases

State of Andra Pradesh v. Rayavarapu Pannayya (AIR 1977 SC 45)

The SC recognizes 3 degrees of culpable homicide:

(a) lowest degree culpable homicide. Punishment with a fine only or with the conviction of 10 years or with both. 

(b) second-degree culpable homicide. Punishment with conviction up to a limit of 10 years or with the conviction of life to either of which fine may be added.

 (c) the highest degree of culpable homicide or murder. Punishment with death or conviction for the life of which fine may be added.

Mohammed Arif v. State of Uttarachal (2009) 11 SCC 497

In this case, it was stated that if a person in executing some act (i) anticipates the death to be the ultimate result (ii) anticipates dangerous injuries to be the result of the act (iii) knows that in the first and second case that death will be the result of his action and his purpose and in the third case knowledge will exhibit the act of homicide.

Kashi Ram v. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 2001 SC 2002)

In this case, the accused open fired a gunshot at a member of the opposition. But unfortunately, the gunshot was hit at another person and he was killed. The Supreme Court used the Doctrine of Transferred Malice so that the accused is guilty under Sec.304 of IPC.

Doctrine of Transferred Malice

This doctrine is a design of Anglo-American law to make the defendant responsible for the harm caused to a different person other than the one aim in mind which is caused due to the mistake. Though this doctrine is not stated in the Penal Code, it is indirectly related to section 301 of IPC where Culpable homicide is causing the death of the person whose death was not planned. Malice refers to the intention of the person that has caused injury to another person. There is expressed malice and implied malice. Any calculated act to kill a person with an intention is known as expressed malice and any intention that is clearly seen from the person’s body language or behavior is implied malice.

The essentials are as follows

  1.  Causing the death of a person
  2. An act done with purpose or with the knowledge to cause the death of the person
  3. Causing injury which leads to death 
  4. Causing the death of another person instead of the person intended.

Case law: State of Maharastra v. Kashirao

In this case, it was stated that when a person is killed in course of doing an act, that person knows that there might be death with intention. So, as per his action, the purpose of causing death to another person he should be liable accordingly.


Knowledge here means some kind of originality, to further state here it means knowledge not to be presumed but to understand the probability of act done. It is to be understood that any action to be regarded as an act of culpable homicide the requirement of a mental element or having knowledge that the end result will ultimately be death. It is to be noted here that, in some situations, the mind of a human being is very active and in certain situations, the human mind remains inactive, this is in the context of the state of consciousness of certain facts. The culprit or the offender should have known that his action will cause harm or death to the other person even though his intention was not to cause death.  The term “likely” indicates a lower degree of death.

Caselaw: R v. Cunningham

This is an English case in the House of Lords, wherein the conviction of the defendant was upheld. The victim was killed by hitting a chair in his head. Though there was no intention to kill the victim, the defendant’s intention was to grievously cause bodily harm and that was enough to prove conviction of murder.

  •  For years the mens rea in murder related cases have been described as malice “afterthought”. This is a misleading phrase as there is no need to show any kind of ill-will.

Case law:  Cuniff v. Goodman

Lord Asquith explained the intention “connotes a state of affair which a party intending …. Does more than merely contemplates: it connotes a state of affair which, on the contrary, he decides, so far as in him lies, to bring about”

Punishment for Culpable Homicide

Section 308 of the IPC talks about an attempt to commit culpable homicide. Punishment is confinement for life or confinement for a term of 10 years or fine or both. 

The punishment given under this section differs from a wide range of confinement for life to enforcement of fine. A different sentence is given depending on the extent of intention and knowledge of causing death done by the accused. It is quite clear that the first part of the punishment shows that the offense where the intention to commit the offense is visible and the second part of the punishment shows that the offense where the act was done with the knowledge to cause death was present but there was no intention to cause any bodily harm or death of the other person.

Sec. 304 – Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Sec. 307– Deals with attempts to murder.

Difference Between Culpable Homicide & Murder

Culpable homicide (CH)- There is the purpose of causing death 

Murder (M) – There is the aim present in causing death 

  • Intent to cause harm to the body,
  • Offences know that his action caused the death of the person.

CH-   intention that is likely to cause death due to bodily injuries

M- there is a specific intent to cause bodily injuries that will result in death in the ordinary course of nature.

CH- all culpable homicide is not murder

M- all murders are culpable homicide

CH- is considered a genus

M – is considered a species.

Status of Culpable Homicide in Other Countries

  • In South Africa, culpable homicide is defined as illegal and careless killing of a man. 
  • In Canada, culpable homicide is not considered an offence. Their criminal code talks about classifying the killing of a person by culpable or not culpable homicide. The 3 types of culpable homicide are-  murder, manslaughter and infanticide.
  • In Scotland, culpable homicide is an offence under Common Law and is defined as losing life through unreasonable action but no purpose to kill or as the term used is “wicked recklessness”
  • In Thailand, culpable homicide is not used, instead, the term used is manslaughter.
  • In Singapore, culpable homicide is being defined exactly the same as it is defined in the Indian Penal Code. So, Singapore’s Penal Code core idea is taken from the Indian Penal Code.
  • In the United States,  culpable homicide is referred to as manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.


In the older days, man killed another man for food, property, wealth, etc. the kings used to conquer other territories or kingdoms to increase their dominance. The killing of a human being is considered the most heinous and grievous act done by a person. As time passed by crime rate increased and day by day killing, murder, robbery, and other bodily crimes took place. In this article, we have discussed culpable homicide. Under IPC culpable homicide and murder have always been overlapping offenses, though they are distinct and different from each other. Often there is confusion in the mind of readers whether culpable homicide and murder are one and same. When deciding the case judges rely on the facts, circumstances, and the evidence produced in the case. Another important thing is the knowledge and intention involved in the case. Confusions will arise when it is difficult in interpreting based on the evidence. The Fifth Law Commission in its report has suggested to refined sec. 299 and sec 300 of IPC. As in culpable homicide and murder, intention and knowledge are common. In,  culpable homicide there is no preplanning of the death caused whereas in murder the intention and knowledge are very clear, the offender already knows that his action will lead to the death of the other person. In my opinion, the courts, advocates, and the judges should draft some guidelines between sec 299 and sec.300, because they are the best as they have a lot of experience, the judges must have seen hundreds of cases where the case could be culpable homicide or murder, Also they are expert interpreting the bare provisions of any act.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *