B.B. Pande’s limits on objective liability for murder1 is a critique on the The Gudar Dusadh V State of Bihar2 case, wherein the supreme court faulty applied the objective liability test in order to decide the matter. The author criticizes the supreme court judgment for failing to draw a fine line distinction between murder and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Instead of focusing on the main ingredient of objective liability the judges have mainly relied on medical evidence to adjudicate the matter. The author BB Pande has rightly criticize this stance of the supreme court for showcasing negligence towards personal liberty and human dignity.
B.B. Pande’s limits on objective liability for murder, talks about the supreme court’s erroneous decision in the Gudar Dusadh V State Of Bihar3 case, it’s interesting to note that the author bases his claim on the supreme court wrong interpretation of the clause 3 of section 300 4of the Indian penal code.
What stood out to me the most was the author states that clause 3 of the section 300 has two facets to it, first part talks about the mens rea of the accused and the second part talks about the assessment of the nature of injury, this bifurcation of the clause make is easy for us to understand the intention of the drafter of this very clause
It’s interesting to note that the author on this issue of section 300 (3) looks at the objective test laid down in the case of Virsa Singh V State Of Punjab5 wherein the concept of reasonable man was elucidated, this case held that the sufficiency of the injury is dependent on what is foreseen by a reasonable man and that, whether that intended bodily injury was sufficient to cause death, only then it will be under the purview of this section.
The author initially seemed to concede on the applicability of the first part of the clause 3 of section 300 as he infers that the mens rea element was sufficiently proved in this case, because the accused , who were waiting for the victims inflicted a heavy blow on their head in a broad daylight, and also it was not inferred that some other factor might have been present that killed the victims.
Here it was interesting to note that on the question of applicability of second part of clause 3 of section 300, the author was highly dissatisfied with the kind of importance the medical opinion and post mortem report while deciding the case as these reports held that the single blow was enough to kill the victims, based on this reliance the court went on to state the Gudar dusadh case came under the ambit of clause 3 of section 300.
I completely agree with the author wherein he criticized the supreme court’s vague understanding of the objective liability test because the court’s attitude of heavy reliance on the medical evidence was not in consonance with the objective liability test. As we saw in Virsa Singh V State Of Punjab6 case the supreme court held that the second test can only be cleared upon the satisfaction of the ordinary objective standard of a reasonable man and as it has also been in held in the Rajmangal Singh V Ramnath Singh7 case that the medical evidence are not conclusive or binding upon the court and that the courts can form its own independent judgment to form the rationale of the case and hence medical evidence cannot act as a substitute to the other factors which also have a bearing on the assessment issue.
I agree with the author, when he states that there are series of other factor that help the courts in deciding the nature of murder, like in the case Of Brij Bhushan V State Of Up And Hardev Singh V State Of Punjab8, the court decided the nature of murder is based on multiple set of factors such as
1)nature of weapon
2) the location of injury
3) force with which the injury was inflicted.
There are many cases that talk about this very aspect as in the case of Varghese V State Of Kerala9, wherein the court held that the sufficiency for causing death in the ordinary sense is largely depended on the nature of weapon used and the location of the injury, in the case of Re Kottengodan10 case the court held that the location of injury is a very importance aspect when considering the sufficiency of injury in ordinary course of nature. In case of Nga Po Ein V Emperor11, it was held that when a blow is inflicted on the head with a stick then the circumstances and the extent of injury caused should be taken into consideration. These set of parameters are indeed in line with the clause 3 of section 300, which presumes foreseeability only under objectively observable exceptional situations.
I agree with the author, when he contends that any kind of injury that which would fall under this exceptional situations would be of mischievous nature, in so that it would speak for itself, for example a hard blow from the sword in the stomach, which would result in cutting down all vital digestive organs resulting in death, repeated blows from a lathi on the head, repeated stabbing on the parts of body, In all these example we concur that the weapon used, nature of injury is so grave that it renders every other detail futile to establish culpability.
I agree with the author, when he states that the present case of Gudar dusadh12 was mistakenly adjudicated because I feel that this sort of case is of the nature under section 304, of the Ipc which is culpable homicide not amounting to murder and not as a case of objective liability rather, because upon perusal of the case we concur that the wooden lathi that was used to inflict a blow on the victim was not an iron-shod or a long or a heavy lathi, I don’t have a doubt in my mind that lathi is considered to be a dangerous weapon but it is not considered in a way that in ordinary course a person’s death is inevitable upon inflictment, the case of William Slaney V The State13, supports my stance wherein the victim was inflicted repeated six blows from the lathi and still the court held that this amounted to culpable homicide not amounting to murder according to section 304.
I feel that the court showcased contradiction in its reasoning of the case, wherein it held that the infliction of a single blow caused the victim, 3 fractures on the left parietal bone which was a sufficient enough to kill and on the other hand the court held that the blow inflicted on the victim was plainly given in “some force”. Herein I agree with the author, wherein he states that merely giving blow with “some force” does not make it into the exceptional criteria as accorded by clause 3 of section 300.
The Gudar Dusadh V State Of Bihar14 is an excellent example of supreme court inefficiency in carving out a balance between murder and culpable homicide, resulting in widening of the definition of murder, the supreme court total disregard to the nature of weapon theory , which has been a deciding factor in almost all of the offences of murder. The author in my opinion right criticized the judgment, for the supreme court failed to interpret the real meaning or rather the real intention behind the meaning of clause 3 of section 300, which is objective liability test.
1 Pande, Bhuvaneshwar B. “LIMITS ON OBJECTIVE LIABILITY FOR MURDER.” Journal of the Indian Law Institute, vol. 16, no. 3, 1974, pp. 469–482.
2 AIR 1972 SC 952.
3 Supra 2.
4Clause 3 of section 300 of Indian Penal code, If it done with intention of causing bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is sufficient in ordinary course of nature to cause death,
5 AIR 1958SC 465.
6 Supra 4.
7 AIR 1966 SC 1874.
8 AIR 1957 SC 474.
9 (1966) KLJ 868.
10 AIR 1939 Mad 269.
11 AIR 1934 Rang. 110.
12 Supra 2.
13 AIR 1956 SC 116 AT 133.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kaustubh Hardikar is currently in 4th year of the BBA-LLB(Hons) at O.P Jindal Global University. He is interested in criminal law and company law.