Simple Lack of Care, However Bad, the Consequences Will Not Constitute Criminal Negligence: Madras High Court

Excerpt

The Madras High Court, on 23/03/2021, allowed an Original Criminal Petition. It challenged to call entire records relating to proceedings S.C.No.25 of 2017, under Section 482 CrPC.   It challenged the proceedings pending before the court.

Facts of the Case

On 21.02.2015, The Children of Sri Lakshmi  School went to Queensland Amusement Park. They studied in 6th-8th Standard. One student, Master E. Prabhakaran, of around 11 years drowned in the swimming pool inside the park. The school rushed the child to Saveetha Hospital. The Hospital had declared him brought dead.

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The police registered an FIR under Section 174 of CrPC. During the investigation, the General Manager, the Executive Manager, and the person in charge of the pool were accused. Herein, They were referred to as A1, A2, and A3. FIR was changed for the offence under Section 304-A, IPC. After the final investigation, the Police filed a report against the 3 Accused and the 2 Petitioners (ranked as A4 and A5). The Petitioners were the Correspondent and the Principal of Sri Lakshmi Higher Secondary School. The Police charged the five Accused under Section 304-II, IPC. The grounds for the arrest were, failure in fulfilling responsibilities and improper care. The same resulted in the death of the child.

The Judicial Magistrate-I took the final report into cognizance in P.R.C. No. 17 of 2016. The case was committed to the file of the 3rd Additional District and Sessions Court, taken on file in S.C. No. 25 of 2017. The proceeding was challenged, the petition was thus filed.

Arguments

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The prosecution examined 29 witnesses. Not even a single witness was against the Petitioner.  The court took cognizance of the offence without any evidence against the petitioner. They further contended that prosecution\proceeded against the Petitioner. Petitioner’s counsel pointed out that Section 299, IPC was inapplicable as the basic ingredients were not met. adding that Petitioners have not committed a culpable homicide not amounting to murder. In the present case, the offence cannot be imputed to criminal liability under Section 304-A, IPC. The petitioner relied on the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Richhpal Singh Meena v. Ghasi (AIR 2014 SC 3595) and State of Andhra Pradesh v. Rayavarapu Punnayya and Anr. (1976) 4 SCC 382.

Counsel representing the Respondents raised the presence of prima facie evidence against Petitioners. There does not exist any ground for interference in Court proceedings.

Court’s Observation

The court examined the submissions made on both sides. The charge against the Petitioners is a punishable offence. It is under Section 304-II, IPC. A punishment will be applicable only if there is a culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Referring to the above judgments, it has to be within the ambit of homicide in the first place.

Homicide includes the killing of a human being by another. The court has to check whether such homicide is culpable or not if the basic ingredients are met. That is to see if the prosecution relying upon facts bring the case within any one of the four limbs of Section 300, IPC. If it doesn’t meet any one of the four limbs, it is culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The punishment under Section 304-I or 304-II, IPC depends upon the limb. The limb must fall within the ambit of Section 299, IPC.

When an Act falls under one of the four limbs under Section 300, IPC, and also comes within any one of the exceptions under Section 300, IPC. In such a case, it will be again treated as Culpable Homicide not amounting to murder. It is punishable under Section 304-I, IPC. If it is not within ‘Culpable Homicide’, it is to be seen if the facts meet the requirements under Section 304-A, IPC. The Court has to observe broad parameters in case of Homicide.

Court’s Decision

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The court in the present case opined that the petitioners were not present at the scene. The witnesses did not point towards the involvement of the petitioner in the crime. The facts cannot be under the ambit of ‘homicide’.

In the absence of Homicide, a case is not allowed in both cases.  One, Culpable homicide amounting to murder, and second, not amounting to murder. The court must not take cognizance against the Petitioners. It is for an offence punishable under Section 304-II, IPC. This charge is unsustainable. The Petitioners must have acted with such recklessness or total disregard. The possible consequences of such action must be the cause of the death. Simple lack of care, leading to bad consequences, will not constitute criminal negligence. Thus, the court held that there is no evidence to proceed further against the Petitioners. The continuation of the criminal proceedings will be an abuse of process of the Court. It requires the Court’s interference to exercise its jurisdiction (Section 482 CrPC).

It was on the file of the 3rd Additional District and Sessions Court. In S.C. No. 25 of 2017  the court quashed the criminal proceedings against the petitioner. The court also allowed the Criminal Original Petition.

Click here to view the judgment.


 

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