Emperor vs Mushnooru Suryanarayana Murthy on 2 January, 1912
Equivalent citations: (1912) 22 MLJ 333
1. This is an appeal by the Public Prosecutor on behalf of Government against the acquittal of one Suryanarayana Murthi, on a charge of having murdered the girl, Rajalakshmi.
2. The facts of the case, so far as it is necessary to state them for the purposes of this appeal, are as follows:
The accused, with the intentipn of killing Appala Narasimhulu, (on whose life he had effected large insurances without Appala Narasimhulu’s knowledge, and in order to obtain the sums for which he was insured), gave him some sweetmeat (halva) in which a poison containing arsenic and mercury in soluble form had been mixed. Appala Narasimhulu ate a portion of the sweetmeat, and threw the rest away. This occured at the house of the accused’s brother-in-law where the accused had asked Appala Narasimhulu to meet him. Rajalakshmi, who was aged 8 or 9 years, and who was niece of the accused, being ,the daughter of accused’s brother-in-law, took some of the sweetmeat and ate it and gave some to another little child who also ate it. According it one account Rajalakshmi asked the accused for a portion of the sweetmeat, but according to the other account, which we accept as the true account, Appala Narasimhulu, after eating a portion of the sweetmeat threw away the remainder, and it was then picked up by Rajalakshmi without the knowledge of the accused. The two children who had eaten the poisoned sweetmeat, died from the effects of it, but Appala Narasimhulu, though the poison severely affected him, eventually recovered. The accused has been sentenced to transpiration for life for having attempted to murder Appala Narasimhulu. The question which we have to consider in this appeal is whether, on the facts stated above, the accused is guilty of the murder of Rajalakshmi.
3. I am of opinion that the accused did cause the death of Rajalakshmi and is guilty of her murder. The law on the subject is contained in Sections 299 to 301 of the Indian Penal Code and the whole question is whether it can properly be said that the accused “caused the death” of the girl, in the ordinary sense in which those words should be understood, or whether the accused was so indirectly or remotely connected with her death that he cannot properly be said to have “caused” it. It is not contended before us that the accused intended to cause the death of the girl, and we may take it for the purpose of this appeal that he did not know that his act was even likely to cause her death. But it is clear that he did intend to cause the death of Appala Narasimhulu. In order to effect this he concealed poison in a sweetmeat and gave it to him eat. It was these acts of the accused which caused the death of the girl, though no doubt her own action, in ignorantly picking up and eating the poison, contributed to bring about the result. Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code says : ” Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of Causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide.” It is to be observed that the section does not require that the offender should intend to kill (or know himself to be likely to kill) any particular person. It is enough if he “causes the death” of any one by doing an act with the intention of “causing death” to any one, whether the person intended to be killed or any one else. This is clear from the first illustration to the section, “A lays sticks and turf over a pit, with the intention of thereby causing death, or with the knowledge that death is likely to be thereby caused Z believing the ground to be firm, treads on it, falls in and is killed. A has committed the offence of culpable homicide.”
4. Nor is it necessary that the death should be caused directly by the action of the offender, without contributory action by the person whose death is caused or by some other person. That contributory action by the person whose death is caused will not necessarily prevent the act of the offender from being culpable homicide, even if the death could not have occurred without such contributory action, is clear from the above illustration, and that contributory action by a third person will not necessarily prevent the act of the offender from being culpable homicide, even if the death could not have occurred without such contributory action, is clear from the second illustration, viz., “A knows Z to . be behind a bush. B does not know it. A, intending to cause, or knowing it to be likely t6 cause, Z’s death, induces B to fire at the bush. B fires and kills Z. Here B may be guilty of no offence ; but A has committed the offence of culpable homicide.
5. The language of the section and the illustration seem to me to show that neither the contributory action of Appala Narasimhulu in throwing away part of the sweetmeat, nor the contributory action of the girl in picking it up and eating it prevent our holding that it was the accused who caused the girl’s death. The Indian Law Commissioners in their report (1846) on the Indian Penal Code call attention to the unqualified use of the words “to cause death ” in the definition of culpable homicide, and rightly point out that there is a great difference between acts which cause death immediately, and acts which cause death remotely, and they point out that the difference is a matter to be considered by the courts when estimating the effect of the evidence in each case. Almost all, perhaps all, results are caused by a combination of causes, yet we ordinarily speak of a result as caused by the most conspicuous or efficient cause, without specifying all the contributory causes. In Webster’s Dictionary ” cause ” is defined as ” that which produces or effects a result; that from which anything proceeds and without which it would not exist ” and again ” the general idea of cause is that without which another thing, called the effect, cannot be; and it is divided by Aristotle into lour kinds known by the name of the material, the formal, the efficient and the final cause. The efficient cause is the agent that is prominent or conspicuous in producing a change or result.”
6. In the present case 1 think that the accused’s action was the efficient cause of the girl’s death, though her own action in picking up and eating the poison was also necessary in order to effect her death ; just as in the illustration given in the Code the man who laid the turf and sticks over the pit with the intention of causing death was held to be the cause of the death of the man who ignorantly fell into the pit ; although the death would not have occurred if he had hot of his own free will walked to the spot where the pit was. The Code says that the man who made the pit is guilty of culpable homicide, and, in my opinion, the accused in the present case, who mixed the poison in sweetmeat and gave it to be eaten, is equally guilty of that offence. The mens rea which is essential to criminal responsibility existed with reference to the act done by the accused in attempting to kill Apala Narasimhulu, though not in regard to the girl whose death he, in fact, caused, and that is all that the section requires. It does not say ” whoever voluntarily causes death,” or require that the death actually caused should have been voluntarily caused. It is sufficient if death is actually, even though involuntarily, caused to one person by an act intended to cause the death of another. It is the criminality of the intention with regard to the latter that makes the act done and the consequence which follows from it an offence.
7. Turning now to Section 300, Indian Penal Code, we find that culpable homicide is murder if the act by which death ‘ is caused is done with the intention of causing death, and does not fall within certain specified exceptions, none of which are applicable to the present case.
8. It follows that the accused in the present case is guilty of murder, and this is rendered still more clear by Section 301 of the Code. The cases in which culpable homicide is murder under Section 300 are not confined to cases in which the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death. Section 300 specifies other degrees of intention or knowledge which may cause the ate to amount to murder, and then Section 301 enacts that ” if a person, by doing anything which he intends or knows to be likely to cause death, commits culpable homicide by causing the death of any person, whose death he neither intends nor knows himself to be likely to cause, the culpable homicide committed by the offender is of the description of which it would have been if he had caused the death of the person whose death he intended or knew himself to be likely to cause.”
9. The section does not enact any rule not deducible from the two preceding sections, but it declares in plain language an important rule deducible, as we have seen, from those sections, just as an explanation to a section does. The rule could not well be stated as an explanation to either Section 299 or Section 300 as it relates to both. It was, therefore, most convenient to state the rule by means of a fresh section., The rule makes it clear that culpable homicide may be committed by causing the death of a person whom the offender neither intended, nor knew himself to be likely, to kill, a rule which though it does not lie on the surface of Section 299, yet is, as we have seen, deducible from the generality of the words ” causes death” and from the illustration to the section ; and the rule then goes on to state that the quality of the homicide, that is, whether it amounts to murder or not, will depend on the intention or knowledge which the offender had in regard to the person intended or known to be likely to be killed or injured, and not with reference to his intention or knowledge with reference to the person actually killed, a rule deducible from the language of the Sections 299 and 300 though not, perhaps, lying on their very surface. The conclusion, then, at which I arrive is that the accused in this case is guilty of murder as defined in Sections 299 to 301, Indian Penal Code.
10. This conclusion is in accord with the view of Norman Offg., C.J., and Jackson, J., in the case reported in 13 W. R. Criminal Letters, p. 2, where it is said: “The prisoner gave some poisoned rice water to an old woman who drank part herself and gave part to a little girl who died from the effect of the poison. The offence of the prisoner, under Section 301 of the Indian Penal Code, is murder.” That the present accused would be guilty of murder under English Law is clear from the case of Agnes Gore. In that case Agnes Gore mixed poison in some medicine sent by an Apothecary, Martin, to her husband, which he ate but which did not kill him, but afterwards killed the Apothecary, who to vindicate his reputation, tasted it himself, having first stirred it about. ” It was resolved by all the Judges that the said Agnes was guilty of the murder of the said Martin, for the law conjoins the murderous intention of Agnes in putting the poison into the electuary to kill her husband, with the event which thence ensued; i.e., the death of the said Martin; for the putting of the poison into the electuary is the occasion and cause ; and the poisoning and death of the said Martin is the event, quia eventus est qui ex causa sequitur, et dicuntur eventus quia ex causis eveniunt, and the stirring of the electuary by Martin with his knife without the putting in of the poison by Agnes could not have been the cause of his death.” (King’s Bench 77 English Reports, p.853 at page 854).
11. A number of other English cases have been referred to, but it is unnecessary to discuss them as we must decide the case in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, and these are not necessarily the same as the English Law.
12. In the result, I would allow the appeal by Government and convict the accused of the murder of Rajalakshmi.
13. The accused was originally sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment for having attempted to murder Appala Narasimhulu. This sentence was enhanced to one of transportation for life by this court acting as a court of revision in December, 1910, when this appeal was not before them. Looking to these facts I am unwilling to now impose a sentence of death, though it would have been appropriate if the accused had been convicted of murder at the original trial.
Sundara Aiyar, J.
14. In this case the accused Suryanarayana Murthi was charged by the Sessions Court of Ganjam with the murder of a young girl named Rajalakshmi and with attempt to murder one Appala Narasimhulu by administering poison to each of them on the 9th February 1910. He was convicted by the Sessions Court on the latter count but was acquitted on the former count and was sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment. He appealed against the conviction and sentence in Criminal Appeal No. 522 of 1910, and this court confirmed the conviction and enhanced the sentence to transportation for life. The present appeal is by the Government against his acquittal on the charge of murdering Rajalakshmi.
15. The facts as found by the lower court are that the accused, who was a clerk in the Settlement Office at Chicacole, got the life of Appala Narasimhulu, the prosecution 1st witness, insured in two Insurance Companies for the sum of Rs. 4,000 in all, having paid the premia himself; that the 2nd premium for one of the insurances fell due on the 12th January, 1910, and the grace period for its payment would elapse on the 12th February, 1910; that the prosecution 1st witness being at the same time badly pressed for means of subsistence asked the accused for money on the morning of 9th February ; that the latter asked him to meet him in the evening at the house of his (the accused’s) brother-in-law, the prosecution 8th witness; that at the house the accused gave the prosecution 1st witness a while substance which he called ‘ halva’ but which really contained arsenic and mercury in soluble form ; that the prosecution 1st witness having eaten a portion of the halva threw aside the rest; that it was picked up by the daughter of the prosecution 8th witness, the deceased Rajalakshmi, who ate a portion of it herself and gave another portion to a child of a neighbour ; and that both Rajalakshmi and the other child were seized with vomiting and purging and finally died, Rajalakshmi some four days after she ate the halva and the child two days earlier. After the prosecution 1st witness had thrown away the halva both he and the accused went to the bazaar and the accused gave prosecution 1st witness some more halva. The prosecution 1st witness suffered in consequence for a number of days but survived. The accused, as already stated, has been sentenced to transportation for life for attempting to murder the prosecution 1st witness.
16. The case for the prosecution with reference to the poisoning of Rajalakshmi was, as sworn to by the prosecution 1st witness, that, when the accused gave him the halva, the girl asked for a piece of it and that the accused, though he reprimanded her at first, gave her a small portion. But I agree with the learned Sessions Judge that this story is improbable. The girl was the accused’s own niece being his sister’s daughter. He and her father (the prosecution 8th witness) were on good terms. He had absolutely no motive to kill her, and there was no necessity for giving her the halva. The accused, in his statement to the Magistrate (the prosecution 22nd witness) soon after the occurrence, said that the girl had picked up the halva and eaten it. He had made a similar statement to the prosecution 8th witness when the latter returned to his house on the evening of the 9th immediately after the girl had eaten it. This statement is in accordance with the probabilities of the case, and I accept the Sessions Judge’s finding that the halva was not given to the girl by the accused but picked up by her after the prosecution 1st witness had thrown it way. The question we have to decide is whether, on these facts, the accused is guilty of the murder of the girl. At the conclusion of the arguments we took time to consider our judgment, as the point appeared to us to be one of considerable importance, but we intimated that, even if the accused should be held to be guilty of murder, we would not consider it necessary, in the circumstances, to inflict on him the extreme penalty of the law.
17. It is clear that the accused had no intention of causing the death of the girl Rajalakshmi. But it is contended that the accused is guilty of murder as he had the intention of causing the death of the prosecution 1st witness, and it is immaterial that he had not the intention of causing the death of the girl herself. Section 299, Indian Penal Code, enacts that whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide.” Section 300 says “culpable homicide is murder, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death.” Section 301 lays down that ” if a person, by doing anything which he intends or knows to be likely to cause death, commits culpable homicide by causing the death of any person, whose death he neither intends nor knows himself to be likely to cause, the culpable homicide committed by the offender is of the description of which it would have been if he had caused the death of the person whose death he intended or knew himself to be likely to cause.” The contention of the learned Public Prosecutor, to put it very shortly, is (1) that it was the accused’s act that caused the death of the girl and (2) that the accused had the intention of causing death when he gave the poison to the prosecution 1st witness and was, therefore, guilty of any death that resulted from his act. He urges that the sections of the Penal Code practically reproduce the English Law according to which the causing of death with malice aforethought, though the malice may not be directed against a particular individual whose death ensues, would amount to murder. Before referring to the English Law, I shall consider the provisions of the Penal Code bearing on the subject. If Mr. Napier’s contention be sound it would make no difference whether Appala Narasimhulu, the prosecution 1st witness, also died in consequence of the poison or not; nor would it make any difference if, instead of the poison being picked up by the girl and eaten by herself, she gave it to some one else and that one to another again and so on if it changed any number of hands. The accused would be guilty of the murder of one and all of the persons who might take the poison, though it might’ have been impossible for him to imagine that it would change hands in the manner that it did. The contention practically amounts to saying that the intervention of other agencies, and of any number of them, before death results, would make no difference in the guilt of the accused, that causing death does not mean being the proximate cause of death, but merely being a link in the chain ot the cause or events lea-ding to the death and that further any knowledge on the part of the accused that such a chain of events might result from his act is quite immaterial. It is, prima facie, difficult to uphold such an argument. Now is there anything in the sections of the Penal Code to support it? Section 39 provides that ” a person is said to cause an effect’ voluntarily ‘ when he causes it by means whereby he intended to cause it, or by means which, at the time of employing those means, he knew or had reason to believe to be likely to cause it.” The illustration to the section is that if a person sets fire by night to an inhabited house in a large town for the purpose of facilitating robbery, and thus causes the death of a person, he would be taken to have caused the death voluntarily if he knew that he was likely to cause it even though he may not have intended to cause death and may even be sorry that death had been caused by his act. The section and the illustration both show that causation with respect to any event involves that the person should have knowledge that the event was likely to result from his act. Section 299, Indian Penal Code, in my opinion, does not lead to a different conclusion. But before dealing with it, I must turn to Section 301, Indian Penal Code. That section apparently applies to a cause where the death of the person whose death was intended or known to be likely to occur by the person doing the act, does not, as a fact, occur but the death of some one else occurs as the result of the act done by him. It evidently does not apply where the death both of the person whose death was in contemplation and of another person or persons, had occurred. Can it be said that, in such a case, the doer of the act is guilty of homicide with reference to those whose death was not intended by him and could not have been foreseen by him as likely to occur ? Are we to hold that a man who knows that his act is likely to cause the death of one person is guilty of the death of all the others who happen to die, but whose death was far beyond his imagination? Such a proposition it is impossible to maintain in criminal law. Section 301 of the Indian Penal Code has reference to a case where a person intending to cause the death of A, say by striking or shooting him, kills B because B is in the place where he imagined A to be, or B rushes in to save A and receives the injury intended for A. The reason for not exculpating the wrong-doer in such cases is that he must take the risk of some other person being in the place where he expected to find A, or, of some one else intervening between him and A. The section is a qualification of the rule laid down in Section 299 and is evidently confined to cases where the death of the person intended or known to be likely to be killed does not result. If the Public Prosecutor’s general proposition were right, Section 301 of the Indian Penal Code would seem to be unnecessary, as Section 299 would be quite enough. If a person is intended by Section 299 to be held to be guilty for deaths which are not known to be likely to occur, then that section might itself have been worded differently so as to show that the particular death caused need not have been intended or foreseen and what is more important, Section 301 of the Indian Penal Code would not be limited to cases where the death of the particular individual intended or foreseen does not occur. The general theory of the criminal law is that the doer of an act is responsible only for the consequences intended or known to be likely to ensue; for otherwise he could not be said to have caused the effect ” voluntarily,” and a person is not responsible for the involuntary effects of his acts. Illustrations A and B, in my opinion, support this view. Sections 323 and 324 show that a person is responsible in the case of hurt or grievous hurt only for what he causes voluntarily ; and Section 321 shows that hurt to the particular person in question must have been intended or foreseen. In the eye of the law, no doubt, a man will be taken to have foreseen what an ordinary individual ought to foresee, and it will not be open to him to plead that he himself was so foolish as, in fact, not to foresee the consequence of his act. A person might, in some cases, be responsible for effects of which his act is not the proximate cause where the effect is likely to arise in the ordinary course of events to result from the act. This rule will certainly hold good where a person’s act set in motion only physical causes which lead to the effects actually occurring ; when the effect is not due merely to physical causes set in operation by an act, but other persons’ wills intervening are equally necessary causes with the original act to lead to the result, it is more difficult to decide whether the act in question can be said to be the cause of the effect finally produced. The Code throws very little light on the question, Ordinarily, a man is not criminally responsible for the acts of another person, and ordinarily his act should not be held to be the cause of a consequence which would not result without the intervention of another human agency. Sir J. Fitz James Stephen in his ‘History of the Criminal Law of England,’ Vol. III, p. 8, says : ” A more remarkable set of cases arc those in which death is caused by some act which does unquestionably cause it, but does so through the intervention of the independent voluntary act of some other person. Suppose, for instance, A tells B of facts which operate as a motive to B for the murder of C. It would be an abuse of language to say that A had killed C, though no doubt he has been the remote cause of C’s death.” The learned author proceeds to point out that, even when a person counsels, procures or commands another to do an act, he would be only guilty as an abettor but not as a principal offender whose act caused the result, say murder. This is the well settled principle of the English Law, though there appear to be one or two exceptions, to be hereafter pointed out. No such exceptions are mentioned in the Indian Code. They may perhaps be recognised where the doer of the act knew that it would be likely that his own act would lead other persons, not acting wrongfully, to act in such a manner as to cause the effect actually produced. But the scope of the exceptions cannot cover those cases where the doer could not foresee that other persons would act in the manner indicated above. This is the principle adopted in determining civil liability for wrongs. See the discussion of the question in Baker v. Snell (1908) 2 K.B. 825. A stricter rule cannot be applied in cases of criminal liability.
18. Now, can it be said that the accused, in this case, knew it to be likely that the prosecution 1st witness would give a portion of the halva to the girl Rajalakshmi? According to Section 26 of the Indian Penal Code ” a person is said to have ‘reason to believe’ a thing if he has sufficient cause to believe that thing but not otherwise.” A trader who sells a basket of poisoned oranges may be said to have sufficient ‘ reason to believe’ that the buyer would give them to various persons to eat; but one who gives a slice of an orange to another to eat on the spot could not be said to have sufficient ‘ reason to believe’ that he would give half of that slice to another person to eat or that he would throw away a portion and that another would eat it. The poison was thrown aside here not by the accused but by the prosecution 1st witness. The girl’s death could not have been caused but for the intervention of the prosecution 1st witness’s agency. The case, in my opinion, is not one covered by Section 301 of the Indian Penal Code. The conclusion, therefore, appears to follow that the accused is not guilty of culpable homicide by doing an act which caused the death of the girl. Mr. Napier, as already mentioned, has contended that the law in this country on the question is really the same as in England; and he relies on two English cases in support of his contention, viz., Saunder’s case and Agnes Gore’s case. I may preface my observations on the English Law by citing Mr. Mayne’s remark that “culpable homicide is perhaps the one branch of criminal law in which an Indian student must be most careful in accepting the guidance of English authorities.” According to the English Law ” murder is the unlawful killing, by any person of sound memory and discretion, of any person under the King’s peace, with malice aforethought, either express or implied by law. This malice aforethought which distinguishes murder from other species of homicide is not limited to particular ill-will against the persons slain, but means that the fact has been attended with such circumstances as are the ordinary symptoms of a wicked, depraved, and malignant spirit ; a heart regardless of social duty, and deliberately bent upon mischief. Any formed design of doing mischief may be called malice ; and therefore, not only killing from premeditated hatred or revenge against the person killed, but also, in many other cases, killing accompanied with circumstances that show the heart to be previously wicked is adjudged to be killing of malice aforethought and, consequently, murder.”-RUSSELL on Crimes and Misdemeanors, 7th Edition, Volume I, page 655. It will be observed that, in this definition, malice is made an essential requisite, and all cases have to be brought under it. Knowledge that the act is likely to cause death is not part of the definition Nor have we any words to import what is contained in the explanations to Section 299 of the Indian Penal Code or in Cls. 2, 3 and 4 of Section 300. The law was worked out of England to its present condition by a series of judicial decisions. This accounts for the statement that general malice is enough and that it need not be directed against the particular individual killed. Hence also the proposition that wicked intention to injure is enough and intention to kill that individual is not necessary. See ROSCOE’S Criminal Evidence, 13th Edition, pages 617 to 619. Malice again is explained to mean malice implied by law as well as malice in fact. The result is, the law in England is not as different from that in India as a comparison of the definitions might, at first sight, indicate. This is apparent from the statement of the English Law at pp. 20-22, Vol. III of Stephen’s History of the Criminal Law. The statement, however, shows that the law is not identical in both countries. In England an intention to commit any felony will make the act murder if death results. Again ” if a child under years of discretion, a madman, or any other person of defective mind, is incited to commit a crime, the inciter is the principal ex necessitate, though absent when the thing was done. In point of law, the act of the innocent agent is as much the act of the procurer as if he were present and did the act himself.” See RUSSELL on Crimes, Vol. I, page 104. The Indian law does not make the abettor guilty of the principal offence in such circumstances. There is also a presumption in the English Law that ” all homicide is malicious and murder, until the contrary appears from circumstances of alleviation, excuse, or justification ; and it is incumbent upon the prisoner to make out such circumstances to the satisfaction of the Court and Jury, unless they arise out of the evidence produced against him.” See Russell on Crimes, Vol. I, page 657. There is no such presumption here. In Saunder’s case as stated in Roscoe’s Criminal Evidence, p. 154, the prisoner intending to poison his wife gave her a poisoned apple which she, ignorant of its nature, gave to a child who took it and died. This was held murder in the husband, although being present he endeavoured to dissuade his wife from giving it to the child. In Hale’S Pleas of the Crown, Vol. I, p. 436, it is not stated that the prisoner endeavoured, to dissuade his wife from giving the apple to the child. On the other hand, the author says : ” If A commands or counsels B to kill C and before the fact is dose A repents and comes to B and expressly discharges him from the fact and countermands it, if after this countermand B does it, it is murder in B; but A is not accessory.” The decision apparently proceeded on the English rule that the innocence of the intervening agent had the effect of holding the prisoner liable as the principal offender. In Agnes Gore’s case (1614) 77 E.R. 853 the wife who mixed ratsbane in a potion sent by the apothecary to her husband which did not kill him but killed the apothecary who, to vindicate his reputation, tasted it himself, having first stirred it up, was held guilty of murder because the wife had the intention of killing the husband though not of killing the apothecary. It is possible that an Indian court may hold in such a case that it was the duty of the wife to warn and prevent the apothecary from tasting the potion and that she was guilty of an illegal omission in not doing so. Whether the case might not come under Section 301, Indian Penal Code, also it is unnecessary to consider. In The Queen v. Latimer (1886) 17 Q.B.D.359 ” the prisoner, in striking at a man, struck and wounded a woman beside him. At the trial of an indictment against the prisoner under 24 and 25 Vic. C 100, Section 20, for unlawfully and maliciously wounding her, the Jury found that the blow ‘ was unlawful and malicious and did in fact wound her, but that the striking of her was purely accidental and not such a consequence of the blow as the prisoner ought to have expected.’ The Court of Crown Cases Reserved held that the prisoner was guilty. The decision proceeded upon the words of the statute. Section 18 enacted that “whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously cause any grievous bodily harm to any person with malicious intent shall be guilty of felony.” Then Section 20, leaving out the intent, provided that whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict any grievous bodily harm upon any other person shall be guilty of misdemeanour. Lord Coleridge, C.J., pointed out that the language of Sections 18 and 20 was different and that the earlier statute had been altered which provided that the intention should be against the person injured. In Regina v. Michael, where a bottle containing poison was put on the mantel-piece where a little child found it and gave part of the contents to the prisoner’ child who soon after died, the Judges were of opinion that ” the administering of the poison by the child was under the circumstances of the case as much in point of law an administering by the prisoner as if the prisoner had actually administered it with her own hand.” This decision also, no doubt, proceeded on the ground of want of discretion in the intervenor, the child. The Indian courts may hold that a person who keeps poison at a place where others might have access to it must be taken to know that death is likely to result from the act. It is clear that English decisions are not always a safe guide in deciding cases in this country where the provisions of the Penal Code must be applied. In Shankar Balkrishna v. King-Emperor (1904) I.L.R. 32 Cal. 73 the Calcutta High Court held that the prisoner in the case, an Assistant Railway Station Master, was not liable where death would not have resulted if the guard had not acted carelessly, as the prisoner could not be taken to know that the accident to the train which resulted in the loss of human life was likely to lead to death. In In re The Empress v. Sahae Rae (1877) I.L.R. 3 Cal. 623 which may be usefully compared with The Queen v. Latimer (1886) 17 Q.B.D.359 and where also the prisoner was held guilty, the decision was put on the ground that the prisoner knew it to be likely that the blow would fall on a person for whom he had not intended it. Holding, as I do, that, in the circumstances of this case, the prisoner could not be said to have known that it was likely that the prosecution 1st witness would throw aside the halva so as to be picked up and eaten by some one else and that the prisoner was not responsible, in the circumstances, for the voluntary act of prosecution 1st witness, I must come to the conclusion that the prisoner is not guilty of the murder of the girl Rajalakshmi. It is not contended that there was a legal duty on the part of the accused to prevent the girl from eating the halva and that he was guilty of murder by an illegal omission.
19. I would uphold the finding of acquittal of the lower court and dismiss the appeal.
20. As we differ in our opinion as to the guilt of the accused, the case will be laid before another Judge of this court, with our opinions under Section 429, Criminal Procedure Code.
21. This appeal coming on for hearing under the provisions of Section 429 of the Code Criminal Procedure
The Court delivered the following
22. The question for decision is whether the accused Suryanarayanamurti is guilty of an offence under Section 302, Indian Penal Code, in the following circumstances He wanted to kill one Appala Narasimhulu on whose life he had effected rather large insurances and for that purpose gave him some halva (a sort of sweet meat), in which he had mixed arsenic and mercury in a soluble form, to eat. This was at the house of the accused’s brother in-law, where Appala Narasimhulu had called by appointment. The man ate a portion of the halva, but not liking its taste threw away the remainder on the spot. Then, according to the view of the evidence accepted by my learned brothers Benson and Sundara Aiyar JJ., as well as by the Sessions Judge, a girl of 8 or 9 years named Rajalakshmi, the daughter of the accused’s brother-in-law, picked up the poisoned halva, ate a portion of it herself, and gave some to another child of the house. Both the children died of the effects of the poison, but Appala Narasimhulu, the intended victim, survived though after considerable suffering. It is also found as a fact, and I agree with the finding, that Rajalakshmi and the other girl ate the halva without the knowledge of the accused, who did not intend to cause their deaths. Upon these facts Benson J. would find the accused guilty of the murder of Rajalakshmi, while Sundara Aiyar J., agreeing with the Sessions Judge, holds a contrary view.
23. The question depends upon the provisions of the Indian Penal Code on the subject as contained in Section 299 to 301. The first point for enquiry is whether the definition of culpable homicide as given in Section 299 requires that the accused’s intention to cause death or his knowledge that death is likely to be caused by his act in question must be found to exist with reference to the particular person whose death has actually been caused by such act, or is it sufficient for the purposes of the section if criminal intention or knowledge on the part of the accused existed with reference to any human being, though the death oi the person who actually fell a victim to the accused’s act was never compassed by him. I find nothing in the words of the section which would justify the limited construction. Section 299 says: “Whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death, or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely by such act to cause death, commits the offence of culpable homicide.” The language is perfectly general; all that it requires is that there should be an intention to cause death or a knowledge that death is likely to be the result, and there is nothing in reason which, in my opinion, would warrant us in saying that the homicidal intention or knowledge must be with reference to the life of the person whose death is actually caused. The law affords protection equally to the lives of all persons, and once the criminal intention, that is, an intention to destroy human life, is found, I do not see why it should make any difference whether the act done with such intention causes the death of the person aimed at or of some one else. Illustration (a) to Section 299 makes it quite clear that the legislature deliberately employed general and unqualified language in order to cover cases where the person whose death is caused by the act of the accused was not the person intended to be killed by him but some other person. Section 301 also supports this construction as it assumes that the accused in such cases would be guilty of culpable homicide; and I may here point out that the object of this section is to lay down that the nature of culpable homicide of which the accused in these cases would be guilty, namely whether murder or not, would be the same as he would have been guilty of, if the person whose death was intended to be brought about had been killed. Now the first paragraph of Section 300 declares that culpable homicide shall be deemed to be murder if the act by which death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, using so far the very words of Section 299. In the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of Section 300 the language is not quite identical with that of the corresponding provisions in Section 299, and questions may possibly arise whether where the fatal act was done not with the intention of causing death but with the intention of causing such bodily injury as as likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that the accused is likely by such act to cause death, the offence would be one of murder or culpable homicide not amounting to murder. But it is not necessary for me to express any opinion on these matters as in the present case the prisoner undoubtedly intended to cause death.
24. The next point for consideration is whether the death of Rajalakshmi was caused by the accused’s act within the meaning of Section 299. The question is really one of fact or of proper inference to be drawn from the facts. That girl’s death was caused by eating the sweetmeat in which the accused had mixed poison and which he brought to the house where the girl lived in order to give it to the man for whom it was intended. It was given to him, but he, not relishing the taste of it, threw it down. The deceased girl soon afterwards picked it up and ate it, But the accused was not present when Rajalakshmi ate it, and we may even take it that, if the accused had been present, he would have prevented the girl from eating the sweetmeat. These being the facts, there can be, however, no doubt, that the act of the accused in mixing arsenic in the halva and giving it to Appala Narasimhalu in Rajalakshmi’s house was one cause in the chain of causes which brought about the girl’s death. The question then is whether this act of the accused was such a cause of Rajalakshmi’s death as to justify us in imputing it to such act. In my opinion it was. Obviously it is not possible to lay down any general test as to what should be regarded in criminal law as the responsible cause of a certain result when that result, as it often happens, is due to a series of causes. We have to consider in each case the relative value and efficiency of the different causes in producing the effect and then to say whether responsibility should be assigned to a particular act or not as the proximate and efficient cause. But it may be observed that it cannot be a sufficient criterion in this connection whether the effect could have been produced in the case in question without a particular cause, for it is involved in the very idea of a cause that the result could not have been produced without it. Nor would it be correct to lay down generally that the intervention of the act of a voluntary agent must necessarily absolve the person between whose act and the result it intervenes. For instance, if A mixes poison in the food of B with the intention of killing B and B eats the food and is killed thereby, A would be guilty of murder even though the eating of the poisoned food which was the voluntary act of B intervened between the act of A and B’s death. So here the throwing aside of the sweetmeat by Appala Narasimhulu and the picking and the eating of it by Rajalakshmi cannot absolve the accused from responsibility for his act. No doubt the intervening acts or events may sometimes be such as to deprive the earlier act of the character of an efficient cause. Now, suppose, in this case Appala Narasimhulu had discovered that the sweetmeat was poisoned and then gave it to Rajalakshmi to eat, it is to his act that Rajalakshmi’s death would be imputed and not to the accused’s. Or suppose Appala Narasimhulu, either suspecting that the sweetmeat was poisoned or merely thinking that it was not fit to be eaten, threw it away in some unfrequented place so as to put it out of harm’s way and Rajalakshmi happening afterwards to pass that way, picked it up, and ate it and was killed, the act of the accused in mixing the poison in the sweetmeat could in that case hardly be said to have caused her death within the meaning of Section 299. On the other hand, suppose Appala Narasimhulu, finding Rajalakshmi standing near him and without suspecting that there was anything wrong with the sweetmeat, gives a portion of it to her and she ate it and was killed, could it be said that the accused who had given the poisoned sweetmeat to Appala Narsimhulu was not responsible for the death of Rajalakshmi ? I think not. And there is really no difference between such a case and the present case. The ruling reported in 13 W.R.Cr. Letters, p. 2, also supports the view of the law which I have tried to express.
25. Reference has been made to the English law on the point and though the case must be decided solely upon the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, I may observe that there can be no doubt that under the English Law as well the accused would be guilty of murder. In English Law it is sufficient to show that the act by which death was caused was done with malice aforethought, and it is not necessary that malice should be towards the person whose death has been actually caused. This is well illustrated in the well-known case of Agnes Gore (1614)77 E.R. 853 and in Saunder’s case I. Hale P.C. 431 and also in Regina V. Michael 9 C and P. 356. No doubt” malice aforethought,” at least according to the old interpretation of it as including an intention to commit any felony, covers a wider ground in the English Law than the criminal intention or knowledge required by Sections 299 and 300, Indian Penal Code, but the law in India on the point in question in this case is undoubtedly, in my opinion, the same as in England.
26. Agreeing therefore with Benson J., I set aside the order of the Sessions Judge acquitting the accused of the charge of murder and convict him of an offence under Section 302, Indian Penal Code. I also agree with him that, in the circumstances of the case, it is not necessary to impose upon the accused the extreme penalty of the law, and I sentence the accused under Section 303, Indian Penal Code, to transportation for life.