SC Clarifies That Motive Need Not Be Proved in Cases With Eye-Witness Accounts

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Supreme Court, in the case of Stalin v State, modified the conviction from under Section 302 to Section 304 Part I. The Bench held that in cases of eye-witness accounts, motive need not be proved.

Brief Facts of the Case

The Accused has appealed to the Supreme Court against the confirmation of his conviction by the High Court. He was convicted by the IV Additional District and Sessions Court under Section 302 of IPC. The appeal challenged the conviction stating that it ought to be under Section 304 Part II instead of Section 302, the latter being graver of the two offences. 

Arguments by the Appellant

The Learned Counsel for the appellant stated that this is a case of a single blow. In such cases, Section 302 is not attracted. Also, the motive alleged for the incident relates to something that happened four months before the actual incident. Hence, the prosecution has failed to establish and prove motive in part of the accused to kill the deceased.

It is submitted that this act took place out of sudden and grave provocation and hence falls under Exception I to Section 300 of IPC. Thus, the appellant has to be convicted for the lesser offence that Section 302 of IPC.

The Learned Counsel for the State submitted that appreciating the facts and circumstances and evidence on record, the Lower Court has convicted the accused of an offence punishable under Section 302. 

Arguments by the State

The Counsel stated that the Accused caused the injury using a knife on the vital organ of the body, i.e., the liver. Additionally, it must be noted that the accused carried a knife, and the injury was inflicted on a vital organ. No grave and sudden provocation was established.

Further, no proposition of law has been laid down by the Court stating that in cases of a single blow, Section 302 is not attracted. The Court has held that the number of injuries is immaterial. It is not always the determining factor for ascertaining intention. The indicators to find out intention is – the nature of the injury, the part of the body where it is caused, and the weapon used. 

Additionally, when it comes to motive, it is irrelevant in this case since there are three eye-witnesses.

Court’s Observation

The Court discussed various judgments like Mahesh Balmiki v State of MP, Dhirajbhai Gorakhbhai Nayak v State, etc. Based on these cases, the Court observed that there is no hard and fast rule that in cases of single injury Section 302 would not be attracted. It depends on facts and circumstances. The nature of the injury, the party of the body where it is caused, and the weapon used are relevant indicators. 

Further, the preceding events will also have a bearing on the issue of whether the act by which the death was caused was done to cause death or knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without intention to cause death. It is the totality of the circumstances which will decide the nature of the offence.

When it comes to the question of motive, the Court mentions the presence of three eye-witness accounts. These were given by the Courts below, and this Court has no reason to doubt the same. Plus, as per the catena of decisions, the motive is not an explicit need under the Penal Code, though it may help prove the case of the prosecution in a case of circumstantial evidence. Here, the prosecution has been successful in proving the case against the Accused by examining the eye-witnesses. Hence, if the prosecution has failed in proving the motive, the same must not be fatal to the case of the prosecution.

The Court then visited the narration of the starting of the incident by PW3. At the place of incident, beer was being served and the people participating were all friends. The Court reiterated the Exception IV of Section 300 IPC. They opined that in the facts and circumstances of the case narrated and how the incident started in a beer party, Section 302 IPC must not be attracted.

Considering the totality of facts and circumstances, the weapon used and the nature and location of injury inflicted, the Court presumed that the Accused caused such injury that was likely to cause death. Hence, this case would fall under Section 304 Part I of IPC and not Part II as the appellant prayed.

Court’s Order

The Bench allowed the appeal in part. The order of the lower Court was modified from being under Section 302 IPC to Section 304 Part I IPC. The Accused was held guilty and sentenced to 8 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of ₹10,000, which on default attracts another year of R.I.


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