The word homicide is derived from the Latin term homa and cide meaning killing of a human by a human.

Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code defines culpable homicide as any person causing the death of another by his act having the intention or motive to cause the other person’s death or inflict any injury to his body that is most probably to cause his death or does any act knowing that his act is likely to result in the death of the other person.


  • Death of human being results– When the act of a person results or causes the death of a man, woman, or child.  This does not include any unborn child meaning child in the mother’s womb.
  • The act of the accused causes death– An act of a person that causes death is essential for imposing criminal liability on him. Thus, the physical act is a must for culpable homicide. Here act also includes omission of some important act which a person is legally bound to do. Illegally omitting to do an important act also amounts to culpable homicide.
  • Intention to cause death When a person does some act intentionally or knowingly to cause another person’s death or inflict such injury to his body that is likely to result in death is said to have committed culpable homicide.

Thus, the relation between the act of a person and the death of the other must be direct. It need not be immediate but must also not be remote.

EXAMPLE- Z covers a pit with sticks intentionally to cause Y’s death or knowingly that this act of his may result in the death of Y. Z while thinking the ground to be firm walks on the covered pit and falls inside it and gets killed.  Here, Z has committed culpable homicide.

Here, if the act of Z was certain to result in death then it would have amounted to murder. But his act likely to cause death stops his offence to be murder and becomes culpable homicide not amounting to murder.


Jamaluddin’s case, 1892- A girl was believed to be possessed by a ghost by Jamaluddin and some other people. While trying to exorcise the girl’s spirit they have beaten her so severely that the girl died of that beating. The court held that the accused were knowing that such a severe beating may result in the death of the girl their actions amounted to culpable homicide.


Section 300 of the Indian Penal Code provides that Culpable Homicide is Murder when-

The person who has done the act resulting in the death of the other has done it intending to cause the other person’s death, or

Such injury or harm to the other person’s body which the person doing the act knows that such injury is likely to result in the death of the other person, or

Is enough in ordinary circumstances to result in death, or

Knows that his act is so dangerous that it can cause death or some injury to the body that will eventually lead to the death of the other person.


Emperor v. Bharat Bipari, 1920- In this case blindly believing a superstition a child was offered by the accused to a crocodile. He believed bonafide that the child will not be harmed by the crocodile. However, the crocodile killed the child. The court held that the accused had committed murder.


Section 300 of I.P.C. states the following five exceptions that reduce the act of murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

  • Grave and sudden provocation– In such a case the accused is provoked to such an extent that he loses control over himself and kills the person provoking him. The accused acts in the heat of the moment and causes death.

However, such provocation should not be sought, the provocation should not be done voluntarily for killing or inflicting harm or injury to the person who is provoked. Further, provocation should not be the result of any legal action or an act of a public servant exercising his powers or right of private defence.

To use this exception following points must be fulfilled-

a) The provocation must be grave and sudden and the act causing death should be impulsive and not pre-planned.

b) If the provocation is grave but not sudden or sudden but not grave then it will not be a culpable homicide.

c) The provocation must be so grave that it may cause even a calm person to cause death and not just a short-tempered person.

d) The act should not be done after an interval of a certain period which is enough for a person to calm down. The act must be done immediately under the influence of passion or excitement or anger after provocation. If done later on then it would amount to be murder.

The accused should not himself cause the other person to provoke him to kill him as this can become an excuse for killing another person.

For example– If Z finds X in the act of adultery with his wife and thereby immediately attacks and kills X in a fit of passion and anger, the exception of provocation will apply. However, if Z does not kill X at that time but kills him deliberately after planning later on out of revenge then this exception will not apply.

  • Right of Private Defence– If the accused without pre-planning kills the other person while exercising his right of private defence of body or property, it is culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

It must be noted here that the person should use his right of private defence in good faith and therefore should not cause more harm than necessary while defending.

For example– B tries to horsewhip C however not in a way that would cause grievous hurt to C. C feeling that he cannot protect himself in any other way from being horsewhipped removes a pistol and kills B by shooting him. Here, C has not committed murder but is guilty of committing culpable homicide.

  • Public servant kills while discharging his duty- If a death is caused by the act of a public servant or any other person assisting him who in good faith finds it necessary to exceed his legal powers for discharging his duties and if he does not have any ill will against the person killed than it is culpable homicide and not murder.

However, if the public servant or his aid glaringly exceeds their powers illegally and kills a person then their unauthorized act is murder and will not come under this exception.

  • Sudden Fight– If an act is committed because of any sudden quarrel under the heat of passion and anger without any premeditation, without taking undue advantage of the situation and circumstances and not acting cruelly then it comes under this exception and will not amount to murder.

However, the courts have clarified that mere verbal tussle is not covered under this exception. Further, the fight must have aroused between the accused and the person killed. The court in such cases does not consider that who offered provocation or who first committed assault.

  • Consent– If the victim who gets killed was above the age of eighteen years and had himself consented his or her death to be caused by the accused then the offence is culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

For example– Z was suffering from cancer for a long time and had no chance of recovery or survival and was in excruciating pain because of her disease and treatment repeatedly requested her husband X to kill her so that she gets free from all her pain. One night X feeling pity on her killed her to relieve her from her agonies. This comes under culpable homicide and not murder.


For an offence to come under murder it has to fall under the definition culpable homicide.

The following points are to be considered for deciding whether the offence is murder or culpable homicide.

Firstly, the part of the body where the blow is given by the accused. A person who does not want to harm the victim seriously but just defend himself would try to first attack that part of the body which would only injure the victim and not cause his death.

Secondly, the intention of the accused is also very important. Whether the act was predetermined and done intentionally to cause death is to be noted.

Thirdly, the weapon used to be the accused against the victim tells us a lot about he wanted either to only cause harm or cause the death of the victim.

Fourthly, the number of the blows and the force with which the blow is inflicted by the accused upon the victim is also very important.

Fifthly, We must also consider whether the accused or the offender has knowledge that the victim was already in such a bad state of health that his death would be the probable result of any injury caused to him which would not in ordinary cases cause the death of a person who is in good state of health.

Sixthly, if any injury is committed intentionally and knowingly that death is most likely to be the result of such injury than the accused had inflicted injury that is sufficient in ordinary circumstances to cause death.

Thus, we can conclude that the amount of risk to human life decides whether an offence falls under culpable homicide or murder. If the death of the victim is the likely result of the act of the accused then it amounts to culpable homicide. However, if death is the most probable result then it is murder.


 CULPABLE HOMICIDE                    MURDER
1.If an act is done to cause death or any injury to the body that is likely to cause death or with the knowledge that such an act is likely to cause death it amounts to culpable homicide.  If an act is done intentionally to cause death or injury to the body which the accused knows would result in the death of the victim or to inflict an injury to the body sufficient in ordinary cases to cause death, or having knowledge that his act is so dangerous that death or injury leading to death will be the most probable result, it amounts to murder.  
2.The probability or chances of death is less in culpable homicide.  The probability or the chances of death is very high.  
3.All culpable homicides are not included in murder.  All murders come under culpable homicide.
4.Culpable homicide is a less serious offence.  Murder is a more serious offence than culpable homicide.  
5.Even if an offence does not fall with the definition of murder it can be a culpable homicide.  If an offence does not come under the definition of culpable homicide it can not be murder.  

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