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Key Takeaways

  • Section 302 of IPC deals with punishment that is death, life imprisonment and/or fine for murder.
  • Murder is an act done with the intention of causing death, purpose to cause bodily harm likely to result in death or a sudden death.
  • Exceptions to this lie in provocation, private defence, duty of public servant or death caused in sudden fight.
  • The court also considers attempt to murder under Section 302 and like murder it is also a non-bailable offence.
  • Apart from Section 302, the court offers special treatment in cases of pregnant women, minors and co-accused.


Section 302 of IPC states – ‘Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.’ The next question in line is however of murder, what is murder? To answer this, there are certain cases of culpable homicide which are called murder. They are as follows:

  • The act that caused death was done with the goal of producing death. In this case, action also involves deliberate omission. For instance, when a youngster is gravely unwell and his family members refuse to take him to the hospital for urgent treatment, the child dies. A situation like this is referred to as murder.
  • Having the purpose to cause bodily harm that is likely to result in death. The perpetrator has the purpose to cause physical damage and is aware that his actions will result in death. This provision may apply in circumstances where the victim was suffering from a trauma or disease that the perpetrator was aware of and exploited by causing bodily injury that resulted in death of that person, even though it would not have killed a normal person.
  • When an injury is severe enough to cause death in the natural run of things. For this provision to apply, the perpetrator must have intended to cause bodily injury that would be sufficient to cause death in the regular course of nature to any other person.
  • A sudden struggle resulted in death. For this exception, the death must have occurred in the heat of a sudden quarrel, without any premeditation. Keeping in mind that the accused should not have gone beyond any reasonable limits. It doesn't matter who initiated the fight; all that matters is that the person who was slain was involved. The combat is between two or more people, who may or may not be armed.

Common questions around murder

• Is it possible to justify murder?

It is not only not justified to kill another person, but it is also punishable under every law. There are four special instances listed in Section 320 where the killing of a human being is not deemed murder. Those exceptions are:-

i. Provocation
ii. Private Defence
iii. Duty of Public Servant
iv. Death Caused in sudden fight.

Except for the situations described above, all other killings are either murder or culpable homicide. There are a few elements that all of these exclusions have in common: first, the accused must not have had any intention or knowledge of causing death or bodily injury that could cause death.

• What is a murder attempt?

An attempt to murder is a crime committed with the goal of causing death. However, owing to unforeseen circumstances, it was unable to be completed. The term "attempt to murder" refers to any situation in which the perpetrator knows or suspects that if the act is carried out, it would result in death. The crime of attempted murder is punishable under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code.

• Is a murder attempt bailable?

No, attempting to murder someone is not a charge that can be punished with a fine. It's a felony that can't be expunged. When a person is arrested and held for a non-bailable offence, only a court other than the high court or the Court of Session can decide whether or not the accused can be released on bail in public.

Treatment in Case of Specific People

• Pregnant Women

Besides Section 302, the deferral of capital sentences granted to a pregnant woman is addressed under Section 416 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. If the pregnant lady is convicted, the High Court might postpone the execution of the sentence or lower it to life imprisonment under this section. The rights of an unborn child are guaranteed under this law. The major goal of this section is to protect children who have made no mistakes from being killed. A proper medical check-up and reports should be used to prove the pregnancy.

• Minor

Individuals who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime cannot be executed, according to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000. The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 was repealed in 2015, and the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 took its place. If a person between the ages of 16 and 18 is found guilty of a serious crime such as rape or murder, the modified Act allows them to be prosecuted as an adult.

• Co-accused

The Indian Evidence Act, Section 30, allows the co-accused to confess. Those accused of the same offence will be sentenced to the same length of time in jail. The co-confession accused's has adequate evidentiary value. The parity principle ensures that sentences for the same perpetrators or people convicted of the same crime should be identical. This principle ensures fairness and equity when punishments are handed down.

Important cases related to Section 302 and Murder

• K.M. Nanavati vs. State of Maharashtra, 1961 (AIR 1962 SC 605)

In this decision, the Supreme Court went over the law of provocation in India in great detail. The court made the following observation:

The criteria for "sudden and grave provocation" is whether a reasonable individual from the same society as the accused would have been so provoked as to lose his self-control in the same position as the accused. Under some situations, words and gestures may cause someone accused to be provoked in a way that causes his act to be excused. The victim's mental history might be considered, as well as his earlier actions, to determine whether the future act leads to sudden and grave incitement for committing the offence. The deadly blow should clearly trace the impact of passion resulting from the quick and grave provocation. It should not be done after the provocation has cooled off owing to the passage of time, as this will allow the accused to change the evidence.

• Muthu Vs. State of Tamil Nadu, ((2007) ILLJ 9 MAD)

The Supreme Court ruled in this instance that repeated harassment could rob someone of their ability to self-control, akin to a sudden and grave provocation. When a person goes beyond his right to self-defense: When an act is undertaken in order to protect oneself from additional injury, it is considered to be an act of private defence. If an accused knowingly abuses his right to a private defence, he may be charged with murder. If it was inadvertent, the accused will be charged with culpable homicide, which is not the same as murder.

• Nathan Vs. State of Madras, AIR 1973 SC 665

In this instance, the landlord was attempting to remove the accused by force. While using his right to private defence, the accused killed the landlord. The accused had no fear of death because the deceased was not in possession of any lethal weapon that could have caused serious injury or death to the accused. Because the deceased had no intention of killing the accused, the accused's right to private defence was violated. The defendant was charged with culpable homicide but not murder. The act is carried out by a public official acting in the interest of public justice. If a public official acts in good faith and believes it is legal in order to carry out his duties.

• Dakhi Singh vs. State, 1955

The appellant was a constable with the Railway Protection Force when, while on duty, he accidently murdered a fireman while firing bullets to arrest the thief. Under this law, the constable was entitled to compensation.

• Radhey Syam and An. Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2018

When the appellant learned that his calf had arrived at the deceased's residence, he was furious. The appellant began abusing the dead, and when the latter attempted to intervene, the appellant fired at him. Because the deceased was unarmed at the time, the appellant had the intent to murder him, and he was found guilty of murder.


Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code deals with the death penalty, life imprisonment, and/or a fine for murder.Murder is defined as an act committed with the aim to cause death, physical harm likely to result in death, or a sudden death. Provocation, private defence, public servant duty, or death caused by a sudden conflict are all exceptions.Under Section 302, the court considers attempted murder, which, like murder, is a non-bailable offence.Aside from Section 302, the court gives pregnant women, juveniles, and co-accused extra consideration.

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