Analysis of Culpable Homicide and Murder


This article is written by Surbhi Jain, the student of B.COM LL.B.(H), 3rd year in Amity University Madhya Pradesh.


In this article, we will understand about the very raising issue of today’s era, i.e., culpable homicide and murder. Everyone study about the difference between culpable homicide and murder, which is not the right question because there is no any difference between these both. They are co-related to each other.

If we talk about the difference, then there is a difference between Culpable Homicide amounting to murder and Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder. This is the important and correct question. About which, we will discuss in this whole article in a very precise manner.

In Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), Chapter- XVI is relating to the “Offenses Affecting the Human Body”(Section 299 to Section 377). It is the largest chapter under IPC. The provisions which are discussed under this chapter cover a wide spectrum of offenses that can be committed against the human life. Firstly, the two essential ingredients of crime are mens rea and actus reus. Mens rea means guilty mind i.e., intention of committing a crime while actus reus refers to the guilty act, which is a necessity in order to prove that a criminal act was committed.

This article talks about the two most important and common topics of the IPC i.e., culpable homicide and murder, both of which are mentioned under Section 299 and Section 300 respectively.

In India homicide is divided into two forms i.e., Culpable Homicide [CULPABLE HOMICIDE NOT AMOUNTING TO MURDER] (Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code) and Murder [CULPABLE HOMICIDE AMOUNTING TO MURDER] (Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code). As Murder and Culpable Homicide seems to be similar to each other but there is a very minimal difference between them which is strenuous to understand.

Culpable Homicide:

First of all, to understand that what culpable homicide really means, firslty we need to get the grip of the meaning of this word, homicide which is elucidated below:

Culpable is a term which originates from Latin word ‘culpabilis’ which means ‘worthy of blame’.

Homicide is a word which is also derived from Latin word ‘homo’ which means ‘a man’ and ‘caedere’ which means as ‘to cut or kill’

So, culpable homicide simply means the one who is worthy of blame for killing of man.

Case law: Rampal Singh vs. State of U.P. (24 July, 2012)

In this case, it was held that Culpable homicide is the genus and Murder is its species.

Now, we can simply analyse it that,

  • Murder  a subset of culpable homicide.
  • All murders are culpable homicides, but all culpable homicides are not murder.

Culpable Homicide as per Section 299 (Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder): Culpable Homicide is defined under this section as “Whosoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as it is likely to cause death or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death and commits the offence of Culpable Homicide.”

Ingredients of Section 299:

  • Causing of death of a human being;
  • Such death must have been caused by doing an act;
  • he act must have been done:
    1. Intention (of causing death)
    2. Bodily injury (which will likely to cause death)
    3. Knowledge (that such act will likely to cause death).

Explanation 1. If any person who causes bodily injury to another who is labouring under a disorder, disease or bodily infirmity, and thereby accelerates the death of that other, shall be deemed to have caused his death.

For example, If any person is suffering from operation of his brain and someone suddenly hit a bat on his head.

Explanation 2. If the death is caused by bodily injury, then the person who causes such bodily injury shall be deemed to have caused the death. Although by resorting to proper remedies and skilful treatment the death might have been prevented.

For example, if someone said when I hit that bat, there was no any doctor by whom I can prevent him, then these types of excuses will not be accepted.

Explanation 3. The causing of the death of child in the mother’s womb is not said to be as homicide, but it may amount to culpable homicide to cause the death of a living child, if any part of that child has been brought forth. Though the child may not be as have breathed or been completely born.

For example, Feticide (Bhrun hatya) will not be considered as murder but if any part of that child (little fingers or whatever) is brought forth and you kill him, then it will be considered as murder.

Now as I have above explained that murder is the species of the culpable homicide (genus), then the ingredients of culpable homicide will be fulfilled by murder also i.e.,

  1. Intention of causing death.
  2. Bodily injury will cause death.
  3. Knowledge (that such act will cause death).


The origin of the term “Murder” traces from the Germanic word “morth” which means secret killing. Murder is the term which means, when a person is killed by another person or  by a group of persons who have a pre-determined intention to end the life of that person. But an offence will not amount to ‘Murder’ unless it includes an offence which falls under the definition of culpable homicide, as per the definition of ‘Murder’ under IPC.

Since, All murders are culpable homicide but all culpable homicides are not murders.


Murder as per Section 300 (Culpable Homicide amounting to murder):

[Special types of culpable homicide called as murder.]

Except in the cases, culpable homicide is murder if,

  • If the act is done by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death.
  • If it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury, as the offender already knows that it is likely to cause death of the person to whom the harm is caused.
  • If it is done with the intention of causing such bodily injury to any person and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted, and then it is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
  • If any person committing the act and knows that it is so immediately dangerous and that it must cause death in all probability or such bodily injury as it is likely to cause death, and commits such an act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such bodily harm.

As in case of Culpable Homicide, intention and knowledge for committing the act is important where a man intentionally inflicts bodily injury sufficient in the ordinary cause of nature to cause the death, then in such a scenario, person will be liable for murder and in case of murder, the probability of causing death is more than in case of culpable homicide.

Ingredients of Murder:

           Ingredients of culpable homicide


1.    Intention is of such bodily injury as the offender nose to be likely to cause the death of the person to whom the harm is caused.

2.    Bodily injury is sufficient in the ordinary course off nature to cause death.

3.    Knowledge that it is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death.

4.    And commits acts without any excuse.

Landmark case

Case Law: R vs. Govinda, 1876

In this case, Govinda was a Indian typical husband, who believed in domestic violence and due to some causes of theirs, he beat his wife and due to this, she falls down and fist her and then she died due to some special injury. Now, Court has been ruled that the intention of Govinda of bodily injury was not sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. Therefore, it is not the case of culpable homicide amounting to murder but it is the case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. For this, Govinda will be punished under the section of culpable homicide only, not murder.

In this case, it is explained that murder is a aggravated form of culpable homicide.

  • Murder contains higher degree of intention,
  • higher degree of knowledge

DISTINCTION BETWEEN Section 299 and 300:

To understand the difference between them, we need to understand the very thin line, it is the intention behind the act. Since ‘intention’ is the most confusing aspect in both the provisions the intention is to cause death. Therefore, here we have to consider the degree of intention of offenders. If the person is killed in cold-blood or with planning then it is murder, because here the intention to kill the person is in higher degree and not out of sudden rage or provocation.

On other hand, if the victim is killed without pre-planning and in sudden fight or in sudden anger because of somebody’s provocation or instigation, then such a death is called as culpable homicide. Then it will be a question of fact that whether the act done is culpable homicide or murder.

Now, differences which can be helpful to distinguish between them are:

1)    All murders are culpable homicide but all culpable homicides are not murders.

2)    The word likely is used in Section 299 which states one of the probabilities which amount to culpable homicide, but the word sufficient is used in Section 300 which denotes most probably.

3)    In case of murder, the chance of death is high and in case of culpable homicide, it is less.

4)    Another difference is of mens rea, where it is involved and with a difference of degree in both the offences.

Exceptions in which culpable homicide will not be considered as murder.

The exceptions are:

  • Grave and sudden provocation
  • Private defence
  • Exercise of legal power
  • Without premeditation in sudden fight and
  • Consent in case of passive euthanasia

Exception 1. (Grave and sudden provocation)

In this, grave and sudden provocation should be subjected from that person only whose death is caused. If by grave and sudden provocation, the death is caused of any other person, then it will be considered by mistake or accident.

Case law 1: K.M Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra, 1961(AIR 1962 SC 605)

This is the case of murder and K.M. Nanavati was punished under Section 302 of IPC.


In this case, the Supreme Court held that constant harassment might deprive the power of self-control, and amounting to sudden and grave provocation.

Exception 2. Culpable homicide is not considered as murder, if the offender in the exercise of good faith of the right of private defense of person or any property and exceeds the powers given to him by law and then causes the death of that person against whom he is exercising such right of defense without premeditation and without any intention of doing more harm than it is necessary for the purpose of such type of defense, then it will not be considered as murder.

For ex., A person (A) is passing by the road and another person without any reason attacks him by sticks and then with due respect to his private defense, A kills that person by his gun. As killed him by his gun is not a reasonable force but he exceeds his power given to him by law. Then, it will be considered as culpable homicide only.

Exception 3. Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender being a public servant or aiding a public servant acting for the advancement of public justice, exceeds the powers given to him by law, and then causes death by doing an act which he in good faith, believes to be lawful and necessary for the due discharge of his duty, as such public servant and without ill-will towards the person whose death is caused.

For example, A thief is running and police is trying to caught him and then he shot his head by gun, then this is not a reasonable force because police can also caught him by another ways. Although he us acting for the advancement of police justice but he exceeds the power means his intention was not to kill him but he killed. So, here this offence will be considered as culpable homicide.

Exception 4. Culpable homicide is not murder, if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel, and without the offender’s having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.

Explanation: It is immaterial in such cases which party offers the provocation or commits the first assault.


In this case the appellant was extremely angry when he got to know that his calf had come to the deceased place. The appellant started abusing the deceased, when the latter tried to stop him, the appellant fired at the deceased. The deceased was unarmed at that time, thus, the appellant had an intention to kill the deceased, hence, he was held liable to murder.

Exception 5. Culpable homicide is not murder, when the person whose death is caused, being above the age of eighteen years and suffers death or takes the risk of death with his own consent.

For example,  A instigated B, who was under 18 years of age, to commit suicide. B was incapable of giving consent to his own death. Therefore, A is guilty of murder.

Punishment for Murder (Section 302): 

This section defines that whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

Case law: Mathura Lohar v. The State, 1986 Cr LJ 877 (SC)

In this case, the accused had committed brutal murder of his daughter-in-law and his brother. The cause of dispute was that his son was married by his brother against his wishes and both the son and daughter-in-law were living with his brother. There used to be frequent quarrel between them. One night he entered in their house and then killed them with an axe. It was held by the Supreme Court that the case does not fit in the expression “rarest of rare cases”, therefore he will be punished with sentences of life imprisonment only.

Punishment for culpable homicide (Section 304): 

In this section, punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder is defined as imprisonment for life or imprisonment which may extend to 10 years and also be liable to fine.

Case Law: Kusa Majhi v State of Orissa 1985 Cr. L.J, 1460

In this case, the deceased admonished her own son because he denied to go for fishing with the co-villagers. Infuriated on this the accused, the son brought an axe and dealt with the blows on her shoulder and then she died. There was no pre plan of the offence am the blows were not made on the neck or head region. The accused dealt blows likely to cause bodily injury, which was likely to cause death and he dealt blows on the spur of moment and anger.

Therefore it was held to be a case of culpable homicide.


As explained above that  there is a very thin line difference between Murder and Culpable Homicide, which is of intention. The confusion often emerges when it is difficult to interpret from the evidence, whether the intention was to cause merely bodily injury which would not make out an offence of murder and there was a clear intention for kill the victim making out a clear case of an offence of murder. Since, courts have time and again taken efforts to differentiate between the two offences but the end result of the two being same, intention behind the offence being the important aspect of consideration. The main point is only the intention on which the entire case is based, the court have to take much efforts to find that it is a case of ‘intention’ or ‘no intention’.

Author: Surbhi Jain,
Amity University Madhya Pradesh/ 3rd year student

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