HomeGovindaswamy v. State of Kerala  2016 SCC OnLine SC 939

Facts

The deceased had boarded the ladies compartment of the train. When the accused noticed that she was alone in the ladies compartment, he came into the compartment and assaulted her. He hit her several times and allegedly pushed her from the moving train, after which he, too, jumped off the train and assaulted her sexually. On being found, she was taken to the hospital but she passed away in a few days.

Issue

Whether the accused had the required mens rea for the crime of murder?

Rule

Section 302 of the IPC: Punishment for murder.

Section 376 of the IPC: Punishment for rape.

Analysis

There was no doubt regarding the offence of rape being committed by the accused. The offence that was in question was the offence of murder. The Court observed that there was not sufficient evidence that it was the accused who had pushed her from the train. There was a doubt whether she herself had jumped off from the train and thus, injury caused by falling from the train was not taken into consideration to determine culpability. The Court observed that death was caused due to combined injuries from banging her head on the wall, falling off from the train and aspiration of blood into air due to the position she was kept in during sexual intercourse. The Court then went on to the question of whether the accused intended or had knowledge that it will likely cause the death of the victim by keeping her in that position. They answered in the negative by saying that the intention was to commit rape, but there was no intention or knowledge about causing death.

Conclusion

Since there was the intention to commit rape and no intention to cause death, the accused is liable for punishment under Section 376 IPC but not under Section 302 IPC. The question of intention or knowledge for injury caused by falling from the train was not addressed as causation could not be proved.

Personal opinion

I do not agree with the Court. In R v. Roberts, it was held that natural consequences that occur due to the act of the accused will not break the causal chain. In this case, even if the girl had voluntarily jumped from the train, it would count as a natural consequence and the causal link would not break. He would also have the knowledge that assaulting the girl in an empty compartment would likely cause death as her national reaction would be to escape.

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