Home‘Virsa Singh v. State of Punjab’ 1958 AIR 465, 1958 SCR 1495

 

Facts

Virsa Singh stabbed a man named Khem Singh in his gut with a spear such that his intestines could be seen protruding out of the stab wound. Both lower courts agreed that the injury was caused by Virsa Singh and sentenced him to life imprisonment for murder under section 300 thirdly.

Issues

Whether intention to cause a particular injury is necessary for an act to be murder under section 300 thirdly?
Whether it is important for a person to intend for such an injury to cause death?

Rule

Sections 300 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code lays down the provision containing the definition of murder and section 302 provides for the punishment of the same.

Analysis

Virsa Singh appealed against his guilty verdict on account that he did not intend to cause death. The court was of the opinion that it was irrelevant whether or not he intended to cause death. The only question is whether he intended to cause that particular injury which was caused to the victim, and whether such injury led to his death and was sufficient to cause death. In this case, since Virsa Singh intended to cause the injury that the victim had, he was guilty of murder under section 300 thirdly. Further, the court was of the opinion that it was irrelevant whether a man knew whether or not the injury he inflicted was sufficient to cause death, as this was a question of ignorance of fact.  The only defence available under this clause should be of an accident or causing an injury which was not intended to be caused.

In my opinion, the court was correct in its reasoning. Virsa Singh had caused an injury to Khem Singh which eventually led to his death. Ignorance of the fact that he did not know that the injury he caused would lead to death should not be an acceptable excuse. However, its reasoning that causing an injury which was not intended to be caused is a justifiable excuse under this section is a little ambiguous to me. In essence, what this means is, if someone intended to stab a person in the heart to his death, but instead slipped and slashed his neck, causing his death, he would not be guilty under this section, even though he knew that stabbing someone in his heart would have had the same effect. The question of malice not being transferred is huge ambiguity in such reasoning.

Conclusion

The court ruled that Virsa Singh was guilty under section 300 thirdly and sentenced under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

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