22 Nov 2023 2:06 PM GMT
The Supreme Court recently invoked the doctrine of transferred malice to uphold the conviction of the appellant in a murder case under section 302 IPC. The appellant had no intention to kill the deceased as he had fired with an intention to settle his score with another person Mahendra with whom he had entered into a harsh argument. However, the court held that it made no difference...
The Supreme Court recently invoked the doctrine of transferred malice to uphold the conviction of the appellant in a murder case under section 302 IPC. The appellant had no intention to kill the deceased as he had fired with an intention to settle his score with another person Mahendra with whom he had entered into a harsh argument. However, the court held that it made no difference since ‘Doctrine of Transfer of Malice or Transmigration of Motive’ provides that where there is ‘mens rea’ of committing an offence, it can be transferred to another.
The Court illustrated “An example could be given of a person who had intention to kill a person but by mistake kills another person, then he would still be held guilty of committing murder even in the absence of intention to kill that particular person.”
The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal was hearing an appeal against the Allahabad HC judgment which had upheld the conviction of the appellant under section 302 IPC in a murder case.
In the present case, the informant Mohd. Ali stated that on May 30, 2007, he went to a shop with his son Saddam Hussain(deceased). At the time, Mahendra and Nanhe(appellant) were quarreling. The appellant then fired a shot that pierced the neck of his son who died, while Mahendra sustained injuries. The appellant was charged under Section 304, 308 IPC, and Section 25 of the Arms Act, 1959. On May 14, 2010, the trial court found him guilty of murder under Section 302 IPC and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The High Court in 2019, affirmed the conviction and sentence. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant approached the Supreme Court.
The issue before the court was whether Section 302 IPC could be reduced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder falling under the second part of Section 304 IPC since the appellant had no intention to kill the deceased?
The Court referred to Section 301 of IPC which embodies the 'Doctrine of Transfer of Malice or Transmigration of Motive. It provides that where there is a ‘mens rea’ of committing an offence, it can be transferred to another.
It explained, “If a person has an intention to commit an offense or cause the death of any person but kills one whose death he never intended to cause, he would still be guilty of causing death.”
Citing various cases, the court emphasized that the intent to kill another person is not a decisive factor. Instead, the focus is on the intention to commit the offense, even if it accidentally results in the death of a different individual.
The Court referred to Shankarlal Kacharabhai v. State of Gujarat AIR 1965 SC 1260 , which explained the scope of section 301 lucidly. It observed "Under the section, If A aims his shot at B, but it misses B either because B moves out of the range of the shot or because the shot misses the mark and hits some other person C, whether within sight or out of sight, under S.301, A is deemed to have hit C with an intention to kill him. To invoke S.301 of IPC, A shall not have any intention to cause the death or the knowledge that he is likely to cause the death of C."
The court drew parallels with similar cases, such as Rajbir Singh v. State of U.P. (2006) 4 SCC 51 which had criticized the approach of HC in setting aside the conviction on the ground that the firing was not aimed at the victim and that he was accidently injured. The Court held it to be in complete ignorance of Section 301 IPC.
Further, in Jagpal Singh's case AIR 1991 SC 982 , the court reinforced that the accused can be held liable under Section 302 IPC for accidentally causing harm to a particular person, even if the initial intent was directed at someone else.
The Court held that “the intention to kill some other person is not material in as much as he had the intention of committing the aforesaid offense though accidentally he might have killed another person.”
In light of the above, the court upheld the judgment of the HC convicting him under section 302 IPC for murder.
Case title: Nanhe v. State of UP
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 1005
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment