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Punishment for Attempt to commit Murder (Section 307 of IPC)

“Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, and if hurt is caused to any person by such act, the offender shall be liable either to imprisonment for life, or to such punishment as is hereinbefore mentioned.

Attempts by life convicts:-

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When any person offending under this section is under sentence of imprisonment for life, he may, if hurt is caused, be punished with death.

Illustrations:

a) A shoots at Z with intention to kill him, under such circumstances that, if death ensued, A would be guilty of murder. A is liable to punishment under this Section.

b) A, with the intention of causing the death of a child of tender years, exposes it in a desert place. A has committed the offence defined by this section, though the death of the child does not ensue.

c) A, intending to murder Z, buys a gun and loads it. A has not yet committed the offence, A fires the gun at Z. He has committed the offence defined in this section, and if by such firing he wounds Z, he is liable to the punishment provided by the latter part of the first paragraph of this Section.

d) A, intending to murder Z, by poison, purchases poison and mixes the same with food which remains in A’s keeping ; A has not yet committed the offence defined in this Section. A places the food on Z’s table or delivers it to Z’s servants to place it on Z’s table. A has committed the offence defined in this section.”

Attempt is an intentional preparatory action which fails in its object- which so fails through circumstances independent of the person who seeks its accomplishment. There is a thin line of demarcation between the preparation for, and an attempt to, commit an offence.

Undoubtedly, a culprit first intends to commit the offence, then makes necessary preparations for committing it and thereafter attempts to commit the offence. If the attempt succeeds, he has committed the offence; if it fails due to reasons beyond his control, he is said to have attempted to commit the offence.

Attempt to commit an offence, therefore, can be said to begin when the preparations are complete and the culprit commences to do something with the intention of committing the offence, and which is a step towards the commission of the offence. The moment he commences to do an act with the necessary intention, he commences his attempt to commit the offence.

The essentials for criminal attempt are:

i) An existence of an intention on the part of the accused to commit a particular offence;

ii) Some steps taken towards it after completion of preparation;

iii) The step must be apparently though not necessarily adapted to the purpose designed;

iv) It must come dangerously near to success;

v) It must fall short of completion of the ultimate design.

An attempt in order to be criminal need not be the penultimate act. It is sufficient in law if there is present an intent coupled with some overt act in execution thereof. For purposes of criminal liability, it is sufficient if the attempt had gone so far that the crime would have been completed but for extraneous intervention which frustrated its consummation.

Section 307 deals with the offence of attempt to commit murder. In order to constitute an offence under Section 307, two elements are essential. First the intention of knowledge to commit murder. Secondly, the actual act of trying to commit the murder. It must have both the necessary mens rea and actus reus.

For offence under this section, all the elements of murder as envisaged by Section 300 must exist, except for the fact that death has not occurred. An attempt, in order to be criminal, need not be the penultimate act foreboding death. It is sufficient if there is present an intention to commit homicide coupled with some overt act in execution thereof.

The words ‘such intention’ found in Section 307 refer to the intention found in Section 300. The IPC uses the word ‘intention’ in the sense that something is intentionally done if it is done deliberately or purposely or in other words, is a willed though not necessarily a desired result or a result which is the purpose of the deed. In IPC, ‘intention’ is used in relation to the consequences of an act, the effect caused thereby, not in relation to the act itself – the voluntariness required to constitute an act is implied by that very word.

In Section 307, the word ‘intention means: (i) intention to cause death; (ii) intention to cause such bodily injury, which the offender knows is likely to cause death; (iii) intention to cause such bodily injury, which injury is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.

Thus, the intention to cause death is the essence of the offence of attempt to murder. Intention is a man’s state of mind; direct evidence therefore except through his own confession cannot be had; and apart from confession they can be proved only by circumstantial evidence.

Therefore, intention is something which can be gathered from circumstances like the nature of the weapon used, the words used by the accused at the time of the act, the motive of the accused, the parts of the body where the injuries are caused, the nature of injuries and the severity and persistence of the blows given etc.

The term ‘knowledge’ refers to the knowledge of the offender that the act done by him is so imminently dangerous that it must in all probability cause death or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death. Even if the accused did not have a deliberate intention, if he must have had the knowledge that his act was likely to cause death, Section 307 applies.

The words ‘and under such circumstances’ point to the act having reached that stage of development at which there was nothing more left in the act or to complete it. It means that the circumstances present at the time of the act were such that the act would have caused death, but it did not; and if it had caused death, the offence would have been murder.

Under Section 307, the offence is complete although the harmful consequence of death does not ensue, indeed even if no harm ensues. But the words “if he by that act caused death” necessarily imply that the act must be capable of causing death. The act, namely, the bare physical act, must be an act capable of causing death, at any rate, not one intrinsically incapable of causing death.

The word ‘act’ would include an illegal omission. In order to bring the case under Section 307, the act must be capable of causing death in the natural and ordinary course of things, or in other words, that death might be caused if the act took effect.

An accused charged under Section 307 cannot be acquitted merely because the injury inflicted on the victim was in the nature of simple hurt. Nevertheless, the nature of injury actually caused render considerable assistance to the Court in finding the intention of the accused. However, it can ascertain intention from other circumstances, even without reference to actual wounds.

In State of Maharashtra v. Balram Âàmà Pate [AIR 1983 SC 305], it was observed that to justify a conviction under Section 307, it is not essential that bodily injury capable of causing death should have been inflicted. Although the nature of injury actually caused may often give considerable assistance in coming to a finding as to the intention of the accused, such intention may also be deduced from other circumstances, and may even, in some cases, be ascertained without any reference at all to actual wounds.

Section 307 makes a distinction between an act of the accused and its result, if any. Such an act may not be attended by any result as far as the person assaulted is concerned, but still there may be cases in which the culprit would be liable under Section 307.

It is not necessary that the injury actually caused to the victim of the assault should be sufficient under ordinary circumstances to cause the death of the person assaulted. What the Court has to see is whether the act, irrespective of its result, was done with the intention or knowledge and under circumstances mentioned in Section 307.

An attempt in order to be criminal need not be the penultimate act. It is sufficient in law, if there is present an intent coupled with some overt act in execution thereof.

In Antony v. State of Kerala [AIR 1994 SC 2450], the accused, aimed a blow with a dagger at the victim’s head who raised his hand to ward it off and got his hand severed from the wrist. The severity of the blow itself spells out his murderous intent. His conviction under Section 307 was held to be proper.

In Sarju Prasad v. State of Bihar [AIR 1965 SC 843], it was observed that the mere fact that the injury actually inflicted by the accused did not cut any vital organ of the victim, is not itself sufficient to take the act out of the purview of Section 307 IPC.

The second part of Section 307, prescribes death sentence to a life convict for attempt to bodily injury capable of causing death and in that process causing hurt to such person, Section 307 which specifically uses the word ‘may’ and not ‘shall’ and provides that when any person offending Section 307 is under sentence of imprisonment for life, he may, if hurt is caused, be punished with death may also receive judicial consideration if it’s also deserves to be struck down as unconstitutional. Court has powers to reduce quantum of sentence if certain conditions are met and Court is satisfied that by reducing the sentence, the ends of justice would not be disturbed.

Offence under Section 307 is cognizable and warrant should ordinarily issue in first instance. It is non-bailable as well as non- compoundable and is exclusively triable by the Court of Session.

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