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Whether the sentence for the offense of culpable homicide can be modified due to the circumstances of the case?

Court: The Supreme court Of India

Case: Mohd. Rafiq @ Kallu vs. The State of Madhya Pradesh


Judgment Date – September 15, 2021

Bench: Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and K.M. Joseph

Brief facts of the Case –

  • A series of unfortunate events that occurred on the evening of 09.03.1992 led to the tragic death of Sub Inspector (SI) D.K Tiwari. On the evening of 09.03.1992, Police station Jabera received information that a truck had collided with a motorcycle and broken the barrier of the Forest Department.
  • On reaching the spot, Sub Inspector Tiwari tried to stop the truck driven by the appellant. Instead of stopping, the accused tried to speed away, upon which SI Tiwari boarded the truck.
  • Immediately, the appellant pushed him, as a result of which SI Tiwari fell off the truck and was run over by the truck. Consequently, SI Tiwari died. It is also alleged that the appellant fled the crime scene with the truck and was later caught and arrested for committing the murder of SI Tiwari.
  • The Trial Court convicted the appellant and sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment for life after considering all the evidence, witnesses, and materials presented before it

Contentions of the Appellant/s

  • The counsel on behalf of the appellant contended that the depositions of several witnesses contain contradictions and exaggerations and also claimed that it was impossible for the accused to have pushed the deceased with such force that he would have fallen off and gotten crushed under the rear wheels.
  • The counsel event contented that certain modifications were made to the original statements, recorded during the investigation, and also pointed out that the eyewitnesses spoke about the incident in an identical fashion and stated that it was improbable that four people observed an incident in the same manner despite being at different points or places.
  • The counsel on behalf of the appellant also contended that the deceased was not in uniform at the time of the incident and the deceased’s efforts to board the truck were resisted by the appellant who did not know that he was a public servant. Hence, there was no question of the appellant having any animus to commit murder. 

Contentions of the Respondent/s

  • On behalf of the state, it was contended that the Court should not interfere with the concurrent findings and conviction recorded by the Trial Court since the court had carefully weighed the evidence and concluded that the appellant knowingly pushed SI Tiwari when he boarded the truck and had also threatened to kill him.
  • Furthermore, the medical evidence substantiated that the truck had run over the deceased since his body sustained multiple fatal injuries.

Principles and observations of the Court –

  • The court observed that there were certainly some contradictions in the statements given by the witnesses of the prosecution. But agreed that the incident had broadly occurred as the prosecution had claimed.
  • The question that now arose before the Court was whether the current case was a case of culpable homicide or murder. The court referred to the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v Rayavarapu Punnayya & Anr to note the subtle yet important distinction between culpable homicide and murder and pointed out that “culpable homicide” is the genus and “murder” its specie.
  • In reference to the case, the Court stated that it is clear that the appellant knew that SI Tiwari had fallen off yet he proceeded to drive on. However, whether he knew that the deceased fell in the direction of the rear tire, of the truck, or whether he fell clear of the vehicle, has not been proved.
  • Hence in the current context, it can be inferred that the appellant intended to cause such bodily injury that was likely to cause death.

Judgement held- 

  • The appellant was held liable under the first part of Section 304 IPC for culpable homicide and modified the sentence from rigorous imprisonment for life to ten years of rigorous imprisonment. The Court, however, stated that the direction to pay the fine shall remain undisturbed.

My Opinion

In my opinion, this Supreme Court’s judgment is a landmark judgment in the field of criminal law in India and rightly interprets and highlights the subtle yet essential difference between the provision of culpable homicide and murder.

Written By: Utkarsh Singh, Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow.

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