The case of Muthu v State (2007) 12 SCALE 795, is an important case law which is discussed in respect to the special exceptions which apply to Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1872 that deals with cases of culpable homicide amounting to murder. Exceptions 1 and 4 to Section 300 i.e., the exceptions of ‘grave and sudden provocation’ along with ‘mutual provocation’ respectively have been applied in this case which I intend to elaborate in this blog. The other important sections used are Sections 302 and 304 of the IPC, 1872.This case also focuses on the lack of mens rea which is shown using the absence of premeditation and how in certain scenarios, exceptions may overlap.
FACTS OF THE CASE
Siva is the deceased in this case who was murdered by Muthu, the appellant on 9thApril 1988. The accused was working in a wastepaper merchant shop where the deceased used to throw waste papers and cardboard boxes daily collected from the roadsides. The accused was angered by these acts in this fit of rage he pushed the deceased, yelled at him, drew a knife lying nearby and stabbed the deceased in the chest which led to his death. The Sessions court and the High Court of Madras convicted the accused and charged him with Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code, 1864. Radhakrishnan, Sakthivel, and Arumugam were the witnesses of this case who were present in a nearby tea shop when this incident occurred.
The issue raised was whether any of the exceptions to murder would apply to this case in order to mitigate the punishment given to the accused?
The Supreme Court applied the following special exceptions to this case which are stated below
“Exception 1. When culpable homicide is not murder. Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender, whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation or causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident.”
“Exception 4.: Culpable homicide is not murder if it is committed without premeditation in a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel and without the offender having taken undue advantage or acted in a cruel or unusual manner.”
Justice Markanday Katju and Justice A.K. Mathurdelivered the judgement of this case. The Court was already leaning towards the applicability of exception 1 and accepted that all the necessary requirements were fulfilled. They accepted that when someone litters in the personal premise of a person, it would be enough reason for sudden and grave provocation. Another element which is important to discuss is the presence of mens rea which is often deciphered by analysing whether premeditation was present or not. In this case, the accused did not plan to murder the deceased and only committed such an act when Siva was throwing garbage in the shop. He did not carry any lethal weapons which would show premeditation but grabbed a knife from the shop at the exact moment. Exception 4 which talks about the ‘sudden fight’ exception applies to this case as the acts of the deceased are what led the accused to attack him. There was an impromptu scuffle between them and also the intention of the accused to ‘kill’ could not be ascertained thereby justifying that the act done by the accused was not unusual or deliberately cruel in the ‘heat of passion’. Another very crucial aspect of this case which was not discussed in depth by the Courts is ‘cumulative provocation’. On the day of this incident, the accused is said to have shouted at the deceased “why do you do this every day?” which hints at the possibility of an initiating act that had been happening from the deceased’s side for a considerable amount of time. Any person who litters the premises of another person regularly is bound to incite the person in a negative manner. The deceased therefore was provoking the accused daily and finally, on the day of this incident the accused is said to have lost control which led to the commission of this act.
Following is the ratio of the case has been stated verbatim – “In our opinion on the facts of the case the act committed was done with the knowledge it is likely to cause death but without any intention to cause death or cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death. Hence the offence comes under the Part II of Section 304 IPC. For the reasons given above, the sentence awarded by the courts below is substituted by the sentence of five years’ simple imprisonment and any period of incarceration in jail which the accused has already undergone shall be deducted from the aforesaid period of five years. The judgments of the courts below are modified accordingly, and the appeal stands disposed of.”
CONCLUSION AND REMARKS
This case, therefore, overturned the decisions of the lower courts and provided the justifications and jurisprudence for changing a judgement “from murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder”. Important key takeaways to mention from this case are that in accordance to the facts of the case, certain exceptions may be used together. Even if there is a sudden fight and mutual provocation of both parties resulting in the death of another, exception 1 can be used along with it. Cumulative provocation, which has not been discussed in the case becomes a crucial part of deciding such cases as it might show that the onus of the commission of the final act does not necessarily lie on the accused persons. The omission of this aspect in the arguments makes the judgement harsher on the accused. To end with, the Court justified sufficiently all the exceptions and how they would apply to this case and sentenced the accused under Section 304 part II thereby reducing the punishment to five years.
Author(s) Name: Spandan Tikle (O P Jindal Global University, Sonipat)