HomePublic Prosecutor v. MS Moorthy (1912) 22 MLJ 333

 

Facts

The accused had called Appala Narasimhulu to the house of the latter’s brother-in-law. The accused, in order to get insurance money, poisoned sweetmeat (halwa) and gave it to Appala Narasimhulu. He threw away the halva after eating a piece of it. However, it was then consumed by Rajalakshmi, his niece, who had also given a piece to another child. Both the children died after eating the halva, while Appala Narasimhulu survived.

 

Issues

‣Whether the causal link broke when Rajalakshmi voluntarily picked up the halva?

‣Whether accused caused death of Rajalakshmi under Section 299 of the IPC?

 

Rules

‣Section 299 IPC: Culpable homicide.

‣Section 300 IPC: Murder.

‣Section 301 IPC: Culpable homicide for death of a person other than death of a person intended to be killed.

‣Section 26 IPC: When a person is said to have ‘reason to believe’.

‣Section 39 IPC: Meaning of voluntarily causing an effect.

Analysis

Majority opinion on causation: Judge Benson observes that an effect is not possible without a cause. With the help of Aristotle’s four types of causes namely material, formal, efficient and final, he opined that the efficient cause is the most important in bringing out the result. He observed that the act of poisoning halwa by the accused was the efficient cause as without that death would not have occurred.

Majority opinion on whether accused caused death of Rajalakshmi under section 299 and 300 IPC: The majority opinion, on looking at the wordings of Sections 299 and 300 IPC, observed that the Sections require only an intention to cause death. They are of the opinion that death, here, could be the death of any person and not necessarily of that person whom the accused wanted to kill. Since, the accused had intention of causing Appala Narasimhulu’d death, and death of another person, Rajalakshmi was caused, the accused would be guilty of culpable homicide which is murder.

Dissenting opinion: Judge Sundara Aiyer observes that the majority’s interpretation of ‘causing death’ does not focus on the proximate cause of the death and leaves no room for intervening acts that may be a very major contributing part of causing death. Further, an analogy is given; when a basket of oranges is poisoned, it can be reasonably believed that the victim can give some oranges to another person, but when a slice of orange is given, the same cannot be held to be true. Similarly, the accused could not have known that the victim would throw the halwa and the girl would pick it up and eat it.

Conclusion

The accused was convicted under Section 302 IPC as he had the intention to cause death and also caused death. The case explains the interpretation of Section 299 and 300 of IPC.

Personal opinion

In my opinion, if death of some other person other than the one intended to be killed, is caused, the accused should be held for murder if it is reasonably possibile for him or her to know that death of another is a possibility which is what even Judge Sundara Aiyer has said in the judgement. In this case, the accused knew that there was a child in the house and thus, he should have known that a child can get excited at the sight of halwa even if it is half-eaten or thrown away and hence, should be guilty of culpable homicide but not murder as there was no intention.

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