Q1: A person was working with a hatchet. Suddenly the head of the hatchet flew and hit B. B dies. Explain
Facts of the case:
- A is a person who was working with a hatchet
- B was hit by the head of the hatchet, which flew off suddenly
- B dies due to the injury from the head of the hatchet
Issues/Questions Involved in the case:
- Can A be prosecuted for the death of B?
Decision/Judgement arrived at in the case:
- The death of B was caused due to an accident and A didn’t have any intention to kill B.
Reasons/Principles Applied to arrive at the Decision:
According to Section 80 from Chapter 4 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), “Accident in doing a lawful act: Nothing is an offence which is done by accident or misfortune and without any criminal intention or knowledge in the doing of a lawful act in a lawful manner by lawful means and with proper care and caution.”
Section 80 IPC provides exemption from criminal liability to an act done by accident of misfortune and without any criminal intention or knowledge in the doing of a lawful act in a lawful manner by lawful means and with proper care and attention.
Meaning of accident or misfortune:
“Accident”, a word which is used in everyday life to indicate a course of events over which a person had no control over and which could not be avoided despite reasonable due diligence and care. Section 80 talks about accident as a general exception and which can lead to avoidance of criminal punishment and liability if established fully before a court of law. Law does not intend to punish a man of the things over which he could possibly have no control over.
Accident comes from the word “accidere” which means to happen or befall upon, whenever we use this term in daily life it usually reflects a course of events out of our control. As they say “Accidents happen”, this indicates the core of this general exception that there was no fault of a party which led to the unwanted consequence. The second term used i.e. “Misfortune” is synonymous with bad luck or an event which was undesirable. Misfortunes are similar to accidents but with the only difference that accidents result in harm to others but misfortune may also result in harm to the doer.
Without any criminal intention or knowledge:
“Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea” (Mens rea: Guilty Mind) only works as a reminder that criminal law in order to punish seeks some kind of guilty mental element to punish a person. This implies that a person when does not intend and cannot even contemplate occurrence of a certain course of events, cannot be held responsible for the happening of that event.
Lawful act in a lawful manner by lawful means:
It is important that the act which was being done was lawful, in a lawful manner and by lawful means. A woman who in order to discipline her child, hits him with an iron rod but the rod hits another child and causes injury will not be entitled to the defence of accident as the act itself lacks lawfulness and cannot be said to be in a lawful manner and by lawful means.
Supporting Case laws/precedents/references:
- State Government of M.P. vs. Rangaswamy [AIR 1952 Nag. 268]
A Heyna, wild animal was moving in the villages and causing injuries and deaths to small children. The people frightened with it. They complained to the authorities. The Government deputed certain officers. While they were wandering in the forests in search of Heyna, they saw a moving animal behind the bushes. It was a rainy day and the vision was not clear. The officers thought that it was the Heyna. It was common that no people would be moving in that area and in particularly in that rainy time. The accused, one of the officers, fired at the moving object. The result was that the death of a human being. The Madhya Pradesh High Court held that the accused was protected under Sec. 80.
- Tunda v. Rex [1950 Cr. Lj. 402 (All. HC)]
The accused and the deceased were friends who were wrestling fans and were engaged in a wrestling bout. While wrestling, the deceased’s head accidentally came in contact with a concrete platform resulting in injuries to the skull and eventual death. The accused was tried under section 304 but later on convicted under section 304A. He preferred an appeal to the Allahabad High Court, which held that when the accused and deceased agree to wrestle with each other, there was an implied consent on each part to suffer any accidental injuries. The injury was accidental and there was no foul play on part of the accused and hence is to be given the benefit under section 80 and section 87
- Bhupendrasinha A. Chudasama vs. State of Gujarat [SC 1998 SCC 603]
The accused and the deceased were police constable and head-constable. They were posted to protect a dam site. The accused killed his colleague in the night by firing at a close range without knowing the identity of his target. The accused pleaded the defence of Sec. 80. The trial Court convicted him under Section 302.
On appeal, the Supreme Court confirmed the conviction under Section 302, and held that the accused acted without proper care and caution, and that the act of accused could not come under an accident or misfortune or it was not a lawful act.
Conclusion to the Problem:
In view of the above discussion, A cannot be prosecuted for the death of B.
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