In Reg. v. Govinda the accused who was a boy of 18 years was married to a girl of 15. The boy appeared to have been habitually ill- treating the girl. On the fateful day the accused knocked his wife down, put one knee on her chest, and struck her two or three violent blows on the face with closed fist, producing extravasations of blood on the brain, and she had died in consequence either on the spot, or very shortly afterwards.
The accused was held guilty of the offence of murder by the Sessions Judge. The case came up before a Bench of two Judges of the Bombay High Court for confirmation of the death sentence.
As there was a difference of opinion between the Judges constituting the Bench as to whether the facts constituted an offence of murder or an offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, the case was for opinion to a third Judge, Melvill, J. His lordship compared the provisions of Sections 299 and 300, I.P.C., viz., culpable homicide and murder thus:
The words marking the difference between the two offences have been italicized above.
Nos. (a) and (1) show that where there is an intention to kill there is always murder.
Nos. (c) And (4) are intended to apply to cases where there is no intention to cause death or bodily injury, e.g., furious driving, firing at a mark near a public road. Whether the offence is culpable homicide or murder depends upon the degree of risk to human life. If death is a likely result, it is culpable homicide; if it is the most probable result, it is murder.
No. (2) Denotes that the offence is murder, if the offender knows that the particular person injured is likely, either from peculiarity of constitution, or immature age, or other special circumstances, to be killed by an injury which would not ordinarily cause death.
As regards (b) and (3) the offence is culpable homicide, if the bodily injury intended to be inflicted is likely to cause death; it is murder, if such injury is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
The distinction is fine, but appreciable. It is a question of degree of probability. Practically, it will generally resolve itself into a consideration of the nature of the weapon used. A blow from the fist or a stick on a vital part may be likely to cause death; a wound from a sword on a vital part is sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.
In short, where the act was not done with the intention of causing death, the difference between culpable homicide and murder is merely a question of degree of probability of the death ensuing. It is culpable homicide where death must have been known to be a probable result; it is murder where it must have been known to be the most probable result.
Culpable homicide is the genus of which murder is a species. In order that an offence may amount to murder it must fall within, the ambit of culpable homicide, but an offence may amount to culpable homicide without amounting to murder. All murders are, therefore, culpable homicide but the converse is not true.
Applying the above observations to the case his lordship came to the conclusion that there was no intention to cause death, nor was the bodily injury sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. The accused was accordingly found guilty of the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and sentenced to transportation for seven years.