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A “Sudden Fight” Implies Mutual Provocation And Blows On Each Side: SC Explains Difference Between Two Exceptions To Murder [Read Judgment]

Supreme Court in Surain Singh Vs State of Punjab has explained the differences between two exceptions of Murder under Section 302 of Indian Penal Code .

In the scheme of the Penal Code, “culpable homicide” is genus and “murder” its specie. All “murder” is “culpable homicide” but not vice-versa. Speaking generally, “culpable homicide” sans “special characteristics of murder”, is “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”. For the purpose of fixing punishment, proportionate to the gravity of this generic offence, the Code practically recognises three degrees of culpable homicide. The first is, what may be called, “culpable homicide of the first degree”. This is the greatest form of culpable homicide, which is defined in Section 300 as “murder”. The second may be termed as “culpable homicide of the second degree”. This is punishable under the first part of Section 304. Then, there is “culpable homicide of the third degree”. This is the lowest type of culpable homicide and the punishment provided for it is, also, the lowest among the punishments provided for the three grades. Culpable homicide of this degree is punishable under the second part of Section 304.[State of A.P. vs. Rayavarapu Punnayya and Another ]

Murder Under Section 300 has four exceptions;

  1. Sudden and grave provocation
  2. Right of private defence
  3. Public servant acted on good faith
  4. Sudden Fight

In this case, the Supreme Court has explained the difference between Exception 1 and 4 of Section 300.

Exception- 1 reads as follows;

When culpable homicide is not murder.— Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation or causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident.

Exception-4 reads as follows;

Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel and without the offender having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.

Explanation- It is immaterial in such cases which party offers the provocation or commits the first assault.

The Supreme Court observed that Exception 4 to Section 300 of the IPC applies in the absence of any premeditation. This is very clear from the wordings of the Exception itself. The exception contemplates that the sudden fight shall start upon the heat of passion on a sudden quarrel. The fourth exception to Section 300 IPC covers acts done in a sudden fight. The said Exception deals with a case of provocation not covered by the first exception, after which its place would have been more appropriate. The Exception is founded upon the same principle, for in both there is absence of premeditation.

But, while in the case of Exception 1 there is total deprivation of self-control, in case of Exception 4, there is only that heat of passion which clouds men’s sober reason and urges them to deeds which they would not otherwise do. There is provocation in Exception 4 as in Exception 1, but the injury done is not the direct consequence of that provocation. In fact, Exception 4 deals with cases in which notwithstanding that a blow may have been struck, or some provocation given in the origin of the dispute or in whatever way the quarrel may have originated, yet the subsequent conduct of both parties puts them in respect of guilt upon an equal footing.

A “sudden fight” implies mutual provocation and blows on each side. The homicide committed is then clearly not traceable to unilateral provocation, nor could in such cases the whole blame be placed on one side. For if it were so, the Exception more appropriately applicable would be Exception 1.

There is no previous deliberation or determination to fight. A fight suddenly takes place, for which both parties are more or less to be blamed. It may be that one of them starts it, but if the other had not aggravated it by his own conduct it would not have taken the serious turn it did. There is then mutual provocation and aggravation, and it is difficult to apportion the share of blame which attaches to each fighter.

The help of Exception 4 can be invoked if death is caused (a) without premeditation,

(b) in a sudden fight,

(c) without the offenders having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner, and

(d) the fight must have been with the person killed.

To bring a case within Exception 4 all the ingredients mentioned in it must be found. It is to be noted that the “fight” occurring in Exception 4 to Section 300 IPC is not defined in IPC. It takes two to make a fight. Heat of passion requires that there must be no time for the passions to cool down and in this case, the parties had worked themselves into a fury on account of the verbal altercation in the beginning.

A fight is a combat between two and more persons whether with or without weapons. It is not possible to enunciate any general rule as to what shall be deemed to be a sudden quarrel. It is a question of fact and whether a quarrel is sudden or not must necessarily depend upon the proved facts of each case.

For the application of Exception 4, it is not sufficient to show that there was a sudden quarrel and there was no premeditation. It must further be shown that the offender has not taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner. The expression “undue advantage” as used in the provision means “unfair advantage”.

Read the Judgment here.

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