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Chacko, Aniyan Kunju v. State of Kerala

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In this case, there was previous animosity between the accused persons and the deceased. To further their common intention as a result of such hostility, all the accused chased and attacked the deceased on 16.6.1994 at 11 pm. Accused-2 hit the victim with a metal rod on the back and when the victim fled for his life, all the accused chased him and near the side of the road, accused 4 lit a torch in his hand which led to the deceased being beaten with axes, shovels, and with a metal rod on various parts of his body. Injuries were mostly caused to the hands, legs and wrists, only one infliction was on the head and it was a fatal injury. Although the deceased was taken to hospital he died. 10 witnesses were examined to further the prosecution process. Rajan (PW-2) was an eyewitness. The information was submitted to the police by Anil Kumar (PW-1). Soman (PW-3) was the deceased’s brother-in-law who was aware of a dispute between the deceased and the accused. The deceased allegedly made a dying declaration in front of them pointing towards all the accused. The accused pleaded innocence. 


Accused pleaded that the incident was suppressed by the prosecution and in fact, the deceased attacked them and caused injuries to Accused1 and Accused 2.

The accused were attacked, they exercised their right to private defence and tried to defend themselves and if as a result the victim was injured there was no crime involved. 


The trial Court of after reviewing the written evidence held that the application for the right to private defence was not made. Accused 1 to Accused 4 were the authors of this case. Nor did the court accept accused 4’s argument that no overt act was attributed to him and there was no material to bring him within the field of Section 34 IPC. The Trial court held that evidence of PW-2 inspire confidence. He was a reliable witness and on his evidence alone the conviction has to be recorded, though additionally, the dying declaration was there.

An appeal was made in High Court that the offence under Section 302 read with Section 34 IPC was not made out did not find acceptance. 

Further, in the next appeal to Supreme Court, the court stated that: 

  • The factual scenario goes to show that late at night in a stage of complete darkness, the occurrence took place. 
  • According to the prosecution itself for visibility, Accused-4 used the torch and focused the light on the deceased so that the other accused persons could assault him. The distance from which the light was focused is also not very small. It was no doubt possible on the part of the accused persons to place the deceased and assault him;
  •  But taking into account the fact that almost all the injuries were on non-vital parts and only one was on the head, it cannot be said that any particular injury was intended. As noticed by Courts below weapons used were not of considerable weight or length. The axe or spade was not used but their handles of small length and weight were used.

 Taking the totality of the evidence into consideration and the special features noticed the court stated, it would be appropriate to convict the accused persons under Section 304 Part I read with Section 34 IPC (custodial sentence for 10 years) instead of Section 302 IPC.


The key point in the above-mentioned case is “Degree” because radically there is no difference; if one wants to contrast culpable homicide and murder then the only way is to comprehend the difference in degrees of intention and knowledge, which directly means greater the degree of intention and knowledge, the case would fall under murder and if degrees are lesser than the case would fall under culpable homicide. It is difficult to demarcate between culpable homicide and murder so one must apply a practical approach by deeply analysing the facts of the case. 

In the present case, a better distinction between Culpable Homicide and Murder has been explained by the Hon’ble Court by stating that in the scheme of IPC homicide is genus and murder is its specie. All murder is a culpable homicide but not vice versa. It stated culpable homicide sans special characteristics of murder is culpable homicide not amounting to murder and to fix punishment proportionate to the gravity of the generic offence, IPC practically recognizes three degrees of culpable homicide. 

  • The first is, what may be called culpable homicide of the first degree. This is the gravest form of culpable homicide, which is defined in Section 300 as “murder”. 
  • The second may be termed as the culpable homicide of the second degree and this is punishable under the first part of Section 304. 
  • Then, there is the culpable homicide of the third degree, the lowest type of culpable homicide and the punishment provided for it is also lowest among all the three grades and it is provided under the second part of Section 304. 


‘Culpable Homicide’ and ‘Murder’ are two overlapping yet distinct offences. The distinction between the two in most of the cases can only be done by observance which facilitates the task of the courts.


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