HomeDeath by Rash and Negligent Acts & their Judicial Interpretation

Death caused due to negligent actions remains a topic of debate among many. The fact that criminal law takes into account the mens rea of the accused also adds to the confusion. When a death occurs due to the negligent act of someone, a loss of life happens but is the one whose negligent act caused such a death guilty of killing them? Perhaps they did not intend to cause such a death, but a death occurred nevertheless. Such cases are covered under section 304A of the Indian Penal Code. Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code states that,

“Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

The elements of the section are that a death must occur, which should be a result of a negligent or rash action of a person, who had no intention or knowledge that such a death could occur, and such an act is not a culpable homicide. This section is evoked in most cases for road accidents or cases of medical negligence. Such acts are punished with imprisonment for two years or fine or both. As a general principle, in the Adomako case, it was established that in cases involving death due to negligence, there are two questions to be asked. The first is whether the accused owed a duty of care to the victim, and if so, then has the lapse of the accused’s duty played a direct role in causing the death. In such cases, the defendant’s mental state is irrelevant in determining his guilt. Rash acts cause death when proper care and caution are not taken by the accused. Negligent acts cause death when there is a legal duty which the accused was bound by but failed to take care of.

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