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Is Attempt to Commit A Crime, A Crime?

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This article traces the history of ‘attempt’ being classified as a crime in and of itself, and the ingredients constituting one.

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Introduction 

Attempting to commit a crime was not a crime in early English common law. The majority of common law crimes involve actual bodily harm or property damage. A miss was as good as a mile in those straight-forward days. Gradually, the law changed, and the legal system began to believe that attempting to commit a crime is a crime in and of itself. An attempt is an inchoate offence in India, covered by section 511 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), although the statute does not define the term, and a defendant who committed an attempt that resulted in severe harm was punished for a minor crime, typically a misdemeanour.

Attempt – Meaning 

An attempt is defined as an inchoate crime in which a person undertakes an action in furtherance of a crime to commit that crime but ultimately fails. The term “inchoate” refers to something that is “undeveloped,” “just begun,” “incipient,” or “at an early stage”. A botched robbery, a missed shot, a beating that fails to kill despite the perpetrator’s best efforts, a would-be rape thwarted by the intended victim, a smuggling thwarted at the border, and many more failed attempts bear the hallmarks of wrongful conduct attempts. These offences are distinguished by the fact that they are committed even if the substantive offence is not completed and no penalty is imposed.

Attempt – Definition 

Although the term “attempt” is not defined in the Indian Penal Code, scholars have attempted to define it in a variety of ways.

  1. Stephen: In his definition of “attempt,” Stephen identified the following elements: → Performing an act with the intent of committing a specific crime.
  • Such an act should be part of a chain of events that, if followed in order, will result in actual commission.
  • The impossibility of actually committing a crime has no bearing on acts that qualify as attempts if the aforementioned conditions are met.
  • Even if the offender voluntarily refrains from committing a crime, an attempt can be made.
  1. Halsbury: In his definition of attempt, Halsbury identifies the following elements: → An act that is connected to the commission of the crime.
  • Such an act should be carried out in the interests of a guilty mind.
  • The overt act should be part of a chain of events that, if not interrupted or frustrated, would lead to the commission of the actual crime.
  1. Andrew Ashworth: The following two elements of Attempt are defined by Andrew Ashworth:
  • The Fault element refers to the offender’s guilty mind and intention.
  • The Conduct element refers to the minimum behaviour required to qualify as an Attempt.

Elements of Attempt 

Intent to commit a crime, conduct that constitutes a substantial step toward completing the crime, and failure to complete the crime are the three elements of an attempt.

  1. Intent: An attempt charge’s intent is a critical component. To be considered true intent, it must be proven that the defendant took steps toward committing the crime, not just planned it. To commit the crime of attempt, the accused must have carefully considered the crime, made the decision to commit it, taken steps to commit it, and tried to commit it effectively or ineffectively. The concept of transferred intent is one exception to this general rule. An individual who intends to commit a crime against one person but inadvertently harms another person may be held liable for one or both crimes under the theory of transferred intent. For example, if a woman intends to shoot her husband but accidentally shoots her husband’s friend who is standing nearby, the woman may be guilty of both the murder of the friend and the attempted murder of her husband (because her intent transfers to him and she did originally intend to murder him).
  2. Substantial Step: Any conduct that strongly corroborates the accused’s firm intent to complete the commission of the crime is a substantial step. A significant step entails more than just preparing to commit the crime. Rather, the act must be such that it propels the defendant closer to completing the crime successfully, even if the crime is never fully carried out. For example, if a person wishes to commit arson but only mulls over a possible plan in his head or discusses it with a friend, it is unlikely that the person will be charged with an attempt. If, on the other hand, the same person wishes to commit arson, buys kerosene and matches, and drives to the building, but is apprehended before starting the fire, this is probably enough to support a charge of arson.
  3. Failure: A charge of attempt also requires that the defendant did not complete the crime he was attempting to commit. This is because attempting to commit a crime is a separate offence that cannot be charged alongside the actual crime. Rather than being charged with attempted murder, the defendant would be charged with murder if he completed the crime, such as murder.

Conclusion 

To sum up, the law relating to attempted murder in India paints a fascinating picture and has sparked numerous debates. The Fifth Law Commission, on the other hand, has expressed dissatisfaction with the way section 511 was inserted into the IPC. The Commission proposes that section 120 C of the IPC be added to include a definition of the term “attempt.” The Law Commission’s position appears to be justified in this regard, as it is long past time for the IPC to include a provision that defines the term rather than simply prescribing a method of punishing the act.


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