Case Comment: Sunil Paswan v. State of Bihar – What constitutes an offence under Sec. 307 IPC ?

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Case Name: Sunil Paswan v State of Bihar[CR. APP (SJ)-196/2015]

What constitutes a crime under Sec. 307(Attempt to commit murder) of the Indian Penal Code(IPC), 1860 has always been a debatable point due to some of its ingredients being similar to the ingredients for conviction under Sec. 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), Sec. 325(Punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt), and Sec. 326(Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means) of the IPC, 1860.

Many attempts have been made to lay out the ingredients for conviction under Sec.307 of the IPC, 1860 like in Sarju Prasad vs State of Bihar(AIR 1965 SC 843), Kaluram vs State of Assam(1977 CRLJ 98), Hari Kishan vs Sukhbir Singh(AIR 1988 SC 2127) and many more.

And the same has been done so in a recent case, by the Hon’ble Patna High Court in Sunil Paswan v. State of Bihar, judgment dated May 16, 2017.  In this case, the Hon’ble Patna High Court endorsed the judgment of Podiyan alias Valuthakunju v. State of Kerala reported in 2017 CRI.L.J. 106, and held that in order to constitute an offence under Sec. 307 IPC, attempt to commit murder, two elements are essential:

  1. the intention or knowledge to commit murder; and
  2. the actual act of trying to commit the murder.

In the same case, the Hon’ble Patna High Court also cited the judgment of the Apex Court of India in Hari Kishan vs Sukhbir Singh(AIR 1988 SC 2127), that:

“Under Section 307 IPC 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 that section. The intention or knowledge of the accused must be such as is necessary to constitute murder. Without this ingredient being established, there can be no offence of ‘attempt to murder’….”

Many other cases were also referred to in Sunil Paswan’s case. But, all the cases had one thing in common, that for a conviction under Sec. 307 of the IPC, 1860, more emphasis is given to mens rea rather than actus reus.

Click here for the full Judgment.

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