IPC Section 307: A Perception On Attempted Murder

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Index

  1. Introduction 
  2. What IPC Section 307 is
  3. Elements Of IPC Section 307
  4. Characteristics Of IPC Section 307
  5. IPC Section 307 And IPC Section 308 : Differentiation
  6. Illustrations For IPC Section 307
  7. Trial Procedure Under IPC Section 307
  8. Key Cases Related To IPC Section 307
  9. Murder Vs Culpable Homicide 
  10. Conclusion 

Introduction 

Every crime involves two key parts: the mental intent (mens rea) to commit the crime and the actual physical act (actus reus) that constitutes the offence. When someone is caught committing a crime, the first question is often about their intention—whether they had a bad faith or wrongful intent. This intention is important not just at the moment of committing the offence, but also in understanding the series of actions leading up to the crime.

The process of committing a crime starts with forming the intention, followed by planning and gathering resources (preparation). Then comes the execution of the plan (attempt), which may lead to either successfully committing the crime or failing due to intervention or mistakes. The act of executing the plan demonstrates the intent, thus establishing criminal liability.

This article discusses the “attempt to murder” provision in the Indian Penal Code of 1860. It explains the nature of this offence, its punishment, and includes relevant case examples.

What is IPC Section 307

Section 307 of the IPC defines attempt to murder as intentionally doing an act that could cause someone’s death. The punishment can be imprisonment for up to ten years, along with a fine. If the act causes harm, the penalty could be life imprisonment or the mentioned punishment.

Section 307 of the IPC also covers the punishment for attempted murder committed by life-convicts, who are already serving life imprisonment for another crime. If such a person commits an attempt to murder and causes harm, they “may” face the death penalty under this section.

Attempt to murder is an unsuccessful attempt to commit murder as defined in Section 302 of the IPC. In Section 302, the offender intentionally causes someone’s death, while in Section 307, the offender tries but fails to cause death, as long as they had the intent or knowledge that their actions could lead to death.

Elements Of IPC Section 307

A person commits an offence under this section if their actions meet the essential conditions required for this offence. These conditions, or ingredients, for Section 307 are:

  1. The main requirement of Section 307 is the intention to kill. The court uses the doctrine of mens rea to determine guilt. Attempted murder doesn’t result in death, but the intention to kill or knowledge that the action could kill is crucial. The court must establish the offender’s intention or knowledge to convict them under this section.
  2. The act should have been capable of causing death if it had gone as planned without interruption. This aspect often helps determine the intention. The type of weapon used and the seriousness of the act are factors in deciding intent.
  3. Under Section 307, the act of trying to kill occurs but isn’t successful. The first stages involve forming intent and preparing for the offence, while the third stage is the actual attempt, which is punishable as a complete attempt.
  4. The act must be done with the understanding that it could cause death, or with the intention to cause a severe injury that would lead to death.
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Characteristics Of IPC Section 307

The offence under Section 307 is similar to murder and is of a cognizable nature, meaning the police must register and investigate it. Attempted murder is non-bailable, allowing judges to deny bail and detain suspects. It’s also non-compoundable, meaning the case can’t be withdrawn by the petitioner.

Illustrations For IPC Section 307

  1. A stationery shop owner, let’s call him Mr. X, became envious when another shop owner, Mr. Y, opened a more advanced store nearby. Out of jealousy, Mr. X attempted to kill Mr. Y one night with an axe. However, he only managed to seriously injure Mr. Y’s leg. Even though Mr. Y survived, Mr. X was found guilty of attempted murder under Section 307 of the IPC.
  2. Mr. P took his 6-year-old daughter, Q, from school to a remote place without any means of survival like food or water. He left her there, never to return, and presumed her dead. The court found him guilty under Section 307 because he knew that his actions would likely lead to her death.
  3. Mr. A wanted to kill Mr. B due to his affair with Mrs. A. Mr. A purchased a gun, loaded it, and shot at Mr. B, causing serious injuries but not death. This act falls under Section 307 as an attempted murder because Mr. A intended to kill Mr. B, and his actions were enough to establish guilt under this section.
  4. Miss X, a maid working for Mrs. Y, was mistreated and verbally abused by Mrs. Y. In response, Miss X decided to kill Mrs. Y. She mixed poison into Mrs. Y’s daily syrup bottle with the intent to cause her death. Miss X didn’t commit a crime until she gave the poisoned syrup to Mrs. Y. Once she delivered it and was sure Mrs. Y would consume it, she committed an offence under this Section for attempting to murder Mrs. Y.

IPC Section 307 And IPC Section 308 : Differentiation 

Section 307 addresses attempted murder and its punishment. Following this is Section 308, which deals with attempted culpable homicide. If a person, with intent or knowledge, causes someone’s death, they are guilty of culpable homicide under this section. Under Section 308, the punishment for attempted culpable homicide is imprisonment for up to three years, a fine, or both. If the attempt results in injury to the person, the offender faces imprisonment for up to seven years, a fine, or both.

Committing an offence under Section 307 is more severe than under Section 308 because in 307, there’s heightened intention or knowledge coupled with the actual attempt to commit murder. In contrast, under Section 308, while there is still intent or knowledge, the act is likely to cause death, leading to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Trial Procedure Under IPC Section 307

  1. The First Information Report (FIR) kickstarts a criminal case and is the initial step in starting the trial process. According to Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), an FIR is filed in cognizable cases. Since attempt to murder is a cognizable offence, its FIR must be lodged. After the police arrest the accused, an FIR is registered, and the accused must be presented before a Magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest.
  2. According to Section 173 of the CrPC, the police must submit a final report to the court after completing the investigation. In cases under Section 307 of the IPC, the final report includes all relevant evidence collected by the police, aiding the court in determining if the offence’s elements have been met. The police present a charge sheet to the judge based on the evidence gathered by the investigation agency. This document outlines all the criminal charges brought against the accused.
  3. During the hearing, the Judge considers arguments from both parties. After evaluating these arguments and the charges presented, the court formally establishes the charges to begin the trial under Section 307.
  4. Section 241 of the CrPC allows for a plea of guilt. After charges are framed, the accused can admit guilt, but the judge must ensure this plea is voluntary, without external influence. If the accused admits to intending to kill the victim, the judge may convict them.
  5. Once charges are framed and the accused pleads ‘not guilty’, the prosecution presents evidence first, bearing the burden of proof initially. This evidence can include oral testimony and documents. The judge has the authority to summon witnesses or request documents during this stage.
  6. The prosecution brings witnesses to testify against the accused in court. Afterward, the accused or their lawyer can cross-examine these witnesses. In some cases, the accused may also present evidence against the prosecution to bolster their case during this stage, helping to strengthen their defense.During the court proceedings, the prosecution presents witnesses to testify against the accused. Following this, the accused or their legal representative can question these witnesses. In certain situations, the accused may also introduce evidence against the prosecution to support their defence and improve their case.
  7. Section 314 of the CrPC allows any party in a case to make concise oral arguments after the evidence phase. Before concluding these arguments, they can submit a memorandum to the court, outlining their arguments under specific headings. This memorandum becomes part of the official record, and a copy is provided to the opposing party immediately.
  8. After considering the arguments from both sides, the judge makes a decision and issues a verdict of either guilty or not guilty, depending on the case. In cases falling under Section 307, if the judge believes that the accused had the intention to kill, supported by a strong motive or evident circumstances such as using a weapon or force, they may find the person guilty under Section 307 and issue the conviction order in the judgement.
  9. After the judge finds the accused guilty under Section 307 and issues the conviction order in the judgement, a hearing is scheduled to determine the duration of the sentence or jail term. The judge has the discretion to reduce the sentence based on the punishment specified in the Section, considering the circumstances of the case and the convict’s background, if deemed appropriate.
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Key Cases Related To IPC Section 307

In the case of Liyakat Mian and Others v. State of Bihar, 1973, four appellants were convicted of dacoity under Section 395 of the IPC. During the crime, one of the appellants fired a gun at the victim, causing severe injuries. The Sessions Court found the appellant guilty under Section 307 for attempted murder and sentenced him to nine years of rigorous imprisonment, in addition to the dacoity conviction. The High Court and the Apex Court upheld this decision, considering the evidence presented.

In Jai Narain Mishra v. State of Bihar (1971), Suraj was involved in an incident where he inflicted severe injuries with a spear and caused surgical emphysema to the victim. However, the court ruled that while the injuries were serious, they did not prove an intent to cause death under Section 307. Instead, the case fell under Section 326 of the IPC, resulting in a reduction of Suraj’s sentence from 5 years to 3 years of rigorous imprisonment.

In State of Maharashtra v. Balram Bama Patil and others (1983), the court clarified that causing a bodily injury capable of causing death is not necessary to prove guilt under Section 307. The accused can be held guilty based on their intention and the circumstances surrounding the act, regardless of the actual outcome. The focus is on whether the act, along with intent, meets the criteria outlined in the section. An attempt to commit a crime doesn’t have to be the final act; intent combined with an overt act is sufficient.

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In Sarju Prasad v. State of Bihar, 1965, Sunil Prasad attacked two individuals with the intention or knowledge that his actions could result in their deaths. The Supreme Court ruled that the accused’s state of mind can be inferred from the circumstances, including motive. As a result, the accused was found guilty under Section 307.

In Vasant V. Jadhav v. State of Maharashtra (2004), the Supreme Court reiterated that Section 307 doesn’t require a bodily injury capable of causing death. The severity of the injury helps determine the accused’s intention, but intent combined with an overt act justifies a conviction under Section 307. Therefore, a simple injury to the victim doesn’t automatically lead to acquittal on the Section 307 charge.

In Ram Babu v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2019, the Court sentenced the accused to 5 years in prison and imposed a fine of 5000 rupees for being guilty under Section 307. The severity of the injuries caused, regardless of their extent, led to this punishment. The accused was not granted bail and was also fined as part of the judgement.

In Devanand v. State, the accused, who was the victim’s husband, threw acid on her when she refused to live with him. This resulted in her losing an eye and being permanently disabled. The Court found that the act showed knowledge that it could lead to her death, leading to a conviction under Section 307 with a sentence of 7 years in prison.

Conclusion 

When someone has the intention or knowledge to commit a crime that could result in death, they can be held accountable for that offence. In attempted murder cases, besides intent, the method used is crucial. For instance, if someone tries to kill another person using a toy gun, they wouldn’t be charged under Section 307 because the means of attempting murder were not substantial.

The severity of punishment for an offence is determined by how far the crime was carried out. In murder cases where the victim doesn’t die, the perpetrator can still be found guilty but under the charge of attempted murder, as per Section 307. This section mandates punishment even for attempts, treating them as seriously as completed murder offences. It underscores the legal principle that intent and actions leading to serious harm are punishable, regardless of the outcome. This approach aims to deter and penalise potential harm even if it’s not fully realised, emphasising the gravity of such criminal acts.

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