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Culpable homicide by causing death of person other than person whose death was intended (Section 301 of IPC)

“If a person, by doing anything which he intends or knows to be likely to cause death, commits culpable homicide by causing the death of any person, whose death he neither intends nor knows himself to be likely to cause, the culpable homicide committed by the offender is of the description of which it would have been if he had caused the death of the person, whose death he intended or knew himself to be likely to cause.”

Section 301 declares a rule deducible from Sections 299 and 300. The underlying idea behind Section 30 appears to be that where an act is in itself criminal, the doing of the act is an offence irrespective of the individuality of the person harmed.

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It states that the quality of the homicide, that is, whether it amounts to murder or not, will depend on the intention or knowledge which the offender had in regard to the person intended or known to be likely to be killed or injured and not with reference to his intention or knowledge with reference to the person actually killed.

If the killing takes place in the course of doing an act which a person intends or knows to be likely to cause death, it ought to be treated as if the real intention of the killer had been actually carried out.

Transferred intention occurs when the injury intended for one falls on another. The doctrine of transferred intention is subject to the following qualifications:

1. The harm that follows is to be of the same kind. The reason is that otherwise too great violence would be done to the doctrine of mens rea and to the wording of the statute under which the charge is made. One cannot be condemned if his mens rea relates to one crime and actus reus to different crime because that would be in disregard to the requirement of an appropriate mens rea.

2. Since the law of transferred malice does not dispense with the need of proof of the usual mens rea it follows that defences are in effect transferred with the malice. Thus there is no guilt if intended force was lawful, unless the accused was criminally reckless or negligent in respect of the actual victim.

Where there is murder of a person by an accused inasmuch as he had aimed at one and killed another person, the accused would be punishable for murder under the doctrine of transfer of malice as contemplated under Section 301, IPC. The accused made himself punishable under Section 302, IPC (Simpliciter).

Thus, Section 301 clearly makes the culpable homicide murder notwithstanding the fact that there was no intention actually to commit the murder of the deceased particularly. In such a case the accused can be rightly convicted under Section 302.

The offence under Section 302 of IPC is cognizable, non-bailable and triable by the Court of Session.

Under Section 301, if A intends to kill  but kills Ñ whose neither death he neither intends nor known himself to be likely to cause, the intention to kill Ñ is, by law attributed to him.

Where a mistake is made in respect of the person, as where the offender shoots at A supposing that he is shooting at B, it is clear that the difference of person can make no change in the offence or its consequences; the crime, consists in the wilful doing of a prohibited act; the act of shooting at A was wilful, although the offender mistook him for another.

There will be no difference where the injury intended for one falls on another by accident. If A makes a thrust at B, meaning to kill, and Ñ throwing himself between, receives and was thrust and dies. A will answer for it as if his mortal purpose had taken place on B.

In Public Prosecutor v. M. Suryanarayana Moorthy [1912 MWN 136], the accused with the intention of killing A, on whose life he had effected insurance, gave him some poisoned sweetmeat. A ate a portion of it and threw the rest away which was picked up by the daughter of the accused’s brother-in-law, aged eight years, without the knowledge of the accused. She ate it and gave to some other little children. The two children died from the effect of the poison, but A eventually recovered. It was held that the accused was guilty of murder.

In Shankarlal v. State [AIR 1965 SC 1260], four persons were shooting at R in furtherance of their common intention to kill M, in the bona fide belief that R was M. R died as a result of the gunshot wounds. It was held by the Supreme Court that the accused were guilty under Section 302 read with Section 34 and that Section 301 had no application.

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