Model Answer on ‘Culpable Homicide/Murder, Defence of Grave & Sudden Provocation’


Question :

Accused ‘A’ doing M.A in Ancient History in the year 2008 was staying at University Hostel. On 31-12-2008, ‘R’ the Hostel Warden was returning from lunch at about 1:00 p.m. ‘A’ reported to him that ‘M’ and ’N’ two other inmates of the hostel abused him by using the word “Goonda”. On ‘R’ making an enquiry both ‘M’ and ’N’ replied in the negative, despite ‘A’ repeatedly asserting that they insulted him. ‘A’ also informed ‘R’ previous night also that there was heated discussion between ‘A’ on the one side and ‘M’ and ’N’ on the other side. ‘P’ the cook after finishing the work in the mess was relaxing on the cot. At this point of time he saw ‘A’ coming towards the door. ‘A’ was wearing half T-Shirt and lungi. The cot of ‘M’ was near the door. ‘A’ took out a knife which was hidden in the lungi and stabbed ‘M’ on the right side of his chest. On witnessing the incident, ‘P’ was shocked and shouted at ‘A’ as to why he was doing it. On hearing the shouts of ‘P’, people came in and apprehend ‘A’ on the spot. ‘M’ was taken to the hospital where he succumbed to the injury. As per ‘D’ the doctor who conducted the post mortem there was no other external injury except the stab injury caused by the knife. The injury was opined to be sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death. After investigation, a chargesheet is filed against ‘A’ for offence punishable under Section 302 of the IPC, in view of the ocular evidence of ‘P’. A took the defence of sudden and grave provocation.


Answer –

The factual position is not disputed insofar as the accused has admitted that he had  inflicted the injury on the deceased, which later turned fatal and caused his death. His only defence is that he was actuated by ‘grave and sudden provocation’ and that squarely brings his case within Exception I to Section 300 of the IPC and this extenuates his guilt from murder to culpable homicide.

Hence, the basic question that the court is called upon to answer is – Whether, in the facts of the case, ’A’ is entitled to the defence of grave and sudden provocation, or not ? 

Before getting into an examination of this issue, let us briefly recapitulate the legal standard to be satisfied in order to entitle an accused to this exception :

Perusal of Exception I to Section 300 of the IPC clearly discloses that ‘provocation’ for the purposes of this exception, has to be both ‘grave’ as well as ‘sudden’ resulting into a total deprivation of self control. The locus classicus on this point is the landmark decision in K.M.Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra, 1962 SC 605, where it was held that : “the test of grave and sudden provocation is whether a reasonable man placed in the situation in which the accused was placed, would be so provoked, so as to totally lose his self control”

With the legal standard being thus, it is clear that the ‘provocation’ in this case was neither grave, nor sudden. To gauge the ‘graveness’ of provocation, the background and surrounding circumstances become extremely crucial. Court cannot lose sight of the fact that the deceased as well as accused are students in a University Hostel. One inmate of the hostel calling the other a ‘Goonda’, is not so serious a provocation that should make the other lose control totally. Judicial notice can be taken of the fact that students in hostels often engage in loose talk and flippancy of speech, which can often turn mean and rude. Indeed, there was also a previous heated exchange between the deceased, ’N’ and the accused the previous night, but the gravity of these exchanges and the use of word ‘Goonda’ is not so serious so as to make the accused be totally deprived of his self control. The provocation must be of such a magnitude as will upset, not merely a hasty, hot-tempered, excitable or hypersensitive person but a ‘reasonable person’ of ordinary sense and calmness. A hostel inmate of ordinary sense would not have taken such a big affront to the remark of ‘Goonda’ and not responded violently as the accused in the present case.

Secondly, one more reason that the defence ought not to succeed is the absence of  the element of ‘suddenness’ in the provocation. In order for provocation to be sudden, it has to be totally unforeseen and there should not be any time for the passions to subside.

In this case, the transaction of heated exchange and alleged remark of ‘Goonda’ happened much prior in point of time. P has categorically deposed that he saw ‘A’ coming towards the door, took out a knife and stabbed ‘M’. This attack was clearly without any fresh provocation. After complaint to the teacher earlier in the day, the accused had ample opportunity to cool down and contemplate the situation. It is clear that he did not deliberate on the situation, but further stoked his passions anew. It is writ large on the case that ’A’, who may have been seething with anger at the earlier perceived insult, killed ’N’ in a cold blooded and deliberate fashion and not on an immediate impulse of provocation.

A, therefore, is clearly liable for murder u/s 302 of the IPC and cannot claim extenuation of guilt by way of Exception I to Section 300 of the IPC.

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