Satwik Singh,WB NUJS
Editor’s Note: The author analyses Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code which deals with attempt to Murder.
Section 307 IPC is about attempt to murder and in the section a lot of weightage has been given to the intention and the knowledge of the accused and the preparation that he takes before committing the crime. How is this intention determined? Is there any hard and fast rule that the courts can apply to decide the intention? And is the nature of injury important to convict a person under this section?
The attempt to murder under section 307 IPC is a very interesting section, in the sense that it has lots of similarities with section 324 IPC, which deals with voluntarily causing hurt using dangerous weapons. Sometimes it is seen that it is very difficult to differentiate between the cases under section 307 and cases under 324,325,326 because all these offences have some common ingredients among themselves. The offence of attempt to murder is a very serious offence because it is not very different from the offence of murder itself. The only difference between the two offences is the death of the victim which is not present under section 307.
The main ingredients under section 307 are
- The act attempted should be of such a nature that if not prevented or intercepted, it would lead to the death of the victim.
- The intention or mens rea to kill is need to be proved clearly without doubt, for this purpose the prosecution can make use of the circumstances like attack by dangerous weapons on vital parts of the body however the intention to kill cannot be gauged simply by the seriousness of the injury caused.
- The intention and the knowledge of the result of the act being done is the main thing that is needed to be proved for conviction under section 307.
For the conviction under this section more importance has been given to mens rea or the intention than the actus reus or the actual act itself. The attempt should arise out of a specific intention or desire to murder the victim.” The nature of the weapon used, the manner in which it is used, motive for the crime, severity of the blow, the part of the body where the injury is inflicted is all taken into consideration to determine the intention”.
The important cases which show that the nature of the injury helps in determining the intention of the accused are Kaluram vs State of Assam, in this case it was found that the accused had dangerous weapon but he inflicted only minor injuries on the victim, which clearly showed that he had no intention to murder and hence he was not convicted under section 307 IPC. Similarly cases like Kiran Kumar vs State of Gujarat where the accused stabbed the stomach near the naval region with a big knife blade, the court rightly rules that it is a case of attempt to murder and not grieveous hurt.
However very interestingly the nature of the injury is not always used to ascertain the intention, that is, a very serious injury need not be caused to prove attempt to murder, even if a simple injury is done with the intention, it will be enough to convict the person under section 307. The most debatable aspect is that even if an injury which in the ordinary course would have caused death, but is not done with an intention to kill, the accused will not be convicted under section 307. The debatable aspect is the amount of punishment that is given under this section, is vastly different from the punishment given under section 324 and any false conviction will be very harmful to the concept equity and justice.
In case of Kuldip Singh vs State, the accused tried to hit the victim with a naked sword but somehow the victim got saved and the blow only caused simple injury, but the court convicted the accused under section 307 IPC because of the dangerous weapon used, which gave away the intention of the accused, which was to murder the victim. “So basically if the intention or necessary knowledge to cause death as envisaged by section 300 IPC which defines murder is there, then it is immaterial to whether or not any hurt was caused to the victim by the accused”.
So the interpretation is that an act which is sufficient in the ordinary cause of nature to cause the death of the person but the intention on the part of the accused is lacking, the act would not constitute an offence under this section. An interesting case is that of Prakash Shandra Yadav vs State of Bihar in this case the accused ordered a person to hurl bombs to kill an informant and the person hurled two bombs towards the informant but fortunately, the bombs did not explode and the high court refused to entertain the conviction of the accused under section 307 IPC citing the lack of serious injuries on the body of the victim, the Supreme Court asked for a reconsideration of the case due to the fact that the logic used by the high court was faulty.
Similarly, the reverse is also true and injuries of simple nature caused by non dangerous objects, like a pen knife but with an intention to kill is enough to prosecute under this section. In case of Shiv Singh vs State the medical evidence was taken into account for determining the intention of the accused, here the weapon used was a dangerous one but the wound caused was of a simple nature, hence the court ruled that the accused would be liable under section 324 and not section 307.
In case of Jai Narain vs State of Bihar the number of the accused was taken into account, the court ruled that the fact that four or five people attacked a person with dangerous weapons showed their intention to cause the death of that person, hence they will be liable under 307.
The intention and knowledge of the act being done is one of the major factors that is used to decide conviction under section 307 but it is not the only factor. The circumstances under which the act was done also weighs heavily when the conviction is given under this section. The words “under the circumstances” have nothing to do with the fact or question that whether the act of the accused was enough to cause death of the victim or not, rather it deals with the nature of his offence which the accused would have committed if his act had caused death of the victim.
“Before the act can hold that the act committed by the accused amounts to attempt to murder or attempt to commit to culpable homicide, it should be satisfied that the act was committed with such intention or knowledge under such circumstances that if it had caused death, it would have amounted, in one case, to murder and in another case, to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.”
This is perhaps the most interesting controversy with regards to section 307, the controversy being that the constitutional validity of this section was challenged itself that is it was alleged that this section violated some of the fundamental rights and thus was ultra vires. This issue was raised in an Andhra Pradesh High Court where the contention was that there were two punishments being meted out for the same offence, the first punishment being imprisoned for life and the second punishment being ten years rigorous imprisonment and there was no provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure to retransfer the matter to the Sessions Judge when it is allotted to him.
In that case the Assistant Sessions judge has to decide the matter and he does not have the power to sentence the accused for more than 10 years according to the procedure laid down by the code. But in another case if the accused is being judged by the sessions judge, the accused can be sentenced for life for the same offence. Thus it was argued that this is violative of article 14 of the constitution.
However, this argument was refuted by the Andhra Pradesh High Court which gave a very good reasoning to solve this seemingly good question of law. The court gave a very simple logic, it being that the assistant session’s judge can always refer the case to the Sessions Judge if he feels that the accused deserves a punishment which he is not capable of imposing. Thus it cannot be said that these are discriminatory in nature or violative of article 14 of the constitution.
The High Court found out that section 307 envisaged two type of cases one where the victim suffered injury and other where the victim didn’t suffer any injury. Accordingly the legislature differentiated between the punishments that was to be given in this section according to the status of the victim, that is if the victim was injured in the attack then the accused after being convicted under this section was given the sentence of imprisonment for life or for ten years with fine and in cases where the victim wasn’t hurt the punishment of imprisonment for ten years is given.
This issue was raised in the case of J Punarao vs State Of AP and the court rightly ruled that there was no question of discrimination and consequently there is no violation of Article 14 and 21 of the constitution.
Apart from the above facts about intention, knowledge and the circumstances that are important ingredients to convict a person under the section, there is also a debate over the nature of the act that is whether the act must be of such a nature that it should cause death of the victim. Here it is unequivocally stated by Bombay High Court in a case that the act must be clearly of such a nature that if it was uninterrupted and not interrupted then the victim would have died, if the act complained is not of this nature, then section 307 will not apply.
However, the Lahore High Court, differed from the Bombay High Court in this regard and ruled even when no injury is caused then also there may be conviction under this section and that the injury caused is merely an aggravating factor. And the Orissa High Court in case called Sukra vs State of Orissa has ruled that injuries which are caused with the intention of causing death but are not grave enough to cause death do not come under this section, thus again reverting back to the position taken up by the Bombay High Court.
This is very interesting to see that on the case of nature of injury all the courts are giving different opinions. The deciding opinion in such case is always the decision of the apex court which ruled that it is not at all mandatory for the accused to be convicted under this section, that he does not have to cause life threatening injury on the victim, his intention, knowledge and the preparation that he took will be the factors that will be looked into for his conviction.
As far as the part of proving his intention the nature of the wound, type of weapon used, part of the body attacked can be taken into account. In the case of Jodha vs State of Rajasthan, the court ruled that merely because a person was stabbed in the thigh and not in a vital body part, it cannot be said that the case does not fall under the ambit of section 307.
Since the law gives a lot of importance on proving the intent of the accused, there have been some tests to determine the murderous intent of the accused. The test was laid down in the case of “Pran Dutt vs UP” where the court said to check the nature of the injury, preparation taken, weapon used to determine the intent of the accused. The evidence of the doctor is also given importance.
PERSONAL ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION
After looking at the judgments of various cases, in my opinion, section 307 ipc is very confusing in so far as the basis of the conviction of accused is concerned. There is a common ingredient which is required for the conviction under this section and that element is intention along with the knowledge and the implication of the act done. All the courts across the board agree on the fact that the intention to commit murder and the preparation for the act must be present.
However, the element where the courts differ with each other is the matter of proving the intention. The difference being that courts say that to prove the intention of the accused, the nature of the injury, the nature of the weapon used, preparation taken are taken into account however surprisingly the courts arrive at different conclusions regarding these facts. That is in some cases the courts have ruled that even if the weapon used was dangerous but caused a simple wound, there would be no conviction under section 307 and in another case the court rules that even if no injury is caused the accused can be convicted if intention to kill is proved.
This is contradictory in nature. In one case the court also ruled that forced starvation can also be convicted under section 307. The questioning of the constitutional validity of this section was a legitimate question which was solved by a very simple answer by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The main conclusion that I reached to is that there is no hard and fast rule about the methodology of proving the intention of the accused, that may vary from case to case and it is the judge’s responsibility to take cognizance of the facts before him and decide on the intention of the accused and it is the intention which matters the most in conviction.
The nature of the injuries, weapons used are merely clues that the judiciary uses to reach to a conclusion about the intention of the accused. So it can be safely said that even of no injury is caused a person can be convicted under this section. As far as the constitutional validity of this section is concerned, this section is not violating the Article 14 and 21 of the constitution and hence it is perfectly valid.
Edited by Amoolya Khurana
 Indian Penal Code, ratanlal and dheerajlal.
 Sarju Prasad vs State of Bihar.AIR 1965 SC 843
 Hari Kishan vs Sukhbir Singh, AIR 1988 SC 2127
 1977 crlj 98
 1985 CrL(NOC) 22 (Guj)
 (1988) 3 Crimes 628(1) Del (SN)
 Ratanlal and Dheerajlal, The India Penal Code (32nd edn, Lexis Nexis Butterworths, 2010) 1753-83
 2008 CrLJ 438 SC
 1975 CriLJ 704 All
 1972 CrLJ 469(SC)(1971) SC 1764.
 Ratanlal and Dheerajlal, The India Penal Code (32nd edn, Lexis Nexis Butterworths, 2010) 1753-83
 (1985) CrLJ 16 (AP)
 (1958) Cut 700
 (1982) Raj Cr c 94
 (1983) 1 Crimes 286.