Death by Negligence – Section 304-A

Causing Death by Negligence

A Person is said to cause a death by Negligence, if the death is caused without any Intention, Recklessness & Knowledge on his part. Provisions of Accidental/Negligent deaths are covered under Section 304-A of Indian Penal Code,1860.

“Whoever Causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both.” – Section 304-A

  • Section 304-A was inserted in the Penal Code by the amendment act of 1870, to cover those cases wherein a person causes the death of another by such acts as are rash or negligent but there is no intention to cause death and no knowledge that the act will cause death. The case should not be covered by Section 299 and 300, only then it will come under this section.
  • This section provides punishment of imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years or fine or with both in case of homicide by Rash or negligent act.
  • The offence under this section is Cognizable, Bailable, Non-Compoundable and Triable by Magistrate of the First Class.

Essential Ingredients in Causing Death by Negligence

To bring a case of homicide under section 304-A IPC, the following conditions must exist:

  1. There must be death of the person in question.
  2. The accused must have caused such death, and
  3. Such act of the accused was rash or negligent, and
  4. It should not amount to culpable homicide.

Key Points Under This Section

Any person: Person includes a Human being of any age, whether born or unborn. Thus even if a child is unborn and within the womb of the mother, it is capable of being spoken of as a person, if its body is developed sufficiently to make it possible to call it a child. Therefore when the accused kicked a woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy, with the result that the child in the womb died, it was held that the accused was guilty under section 304-A of IPC.

*“The Law Commission Has suggested that the punishment should be extended to 5 years.”

Rash or Negligent act: The term ‘rash’ act denotes the want of proper care and caution. It Connotes an overt act. In other words, rashness means doing an act with the consciousness that evil consequences will follow but with the hope that they will not.

  • Culpable Rashness is acting with the consciousness that the mischievous and illegal consequences may follow but with the hope that they will not, and often with the belief that the actor has taken sufficient precaution to prevent their happening.
  • Culpable negligence is acting without the consciousness that the illegal and mischievous effect will follow, but in circumstances which show that the actor has not exercised the caution incumbent upon him, and that, if he had, he would have had the consciousness.
  • A person driving a motor car is under a duty to control the car with care as he is prima facie guilty of negligence, if the car leaves the road or hit any person. It is for the person driving the car to explain the circumstances under which the car leaved the road.
    • Those circumstances may have been beyond his control and may exculpate him, but in the absence of such circumstances, fact that the car left the road is evidence of negligence on the part of the driver itself. But if the driver is not rash, he is not liable for the death of the person who, while suddenly crossing the road, comes under the wheel of his vehicle.

M.H lokre VS. State of Maharashtra 1972 S.C

 The appellant who was not driving the car rashly, was not held guilty under section 304-A of IPC for causing the death of a person who, while suddenly crossing the road came under the wheels of his vehicle.

The Supreme Court said that, “howsoever vigilant and slowly a man might be driving, he cannot avoid an accident if a person suddenly crosses the road”.

Cherubin Gregory VS. State of Bihar AIR 1964 S.C

In this case the appellant was charged with an offence under section 304-A of Indian Penal Code for causing the death of Ms. Madilen by contact with an electrically charged copper wire which he had fixed up at the back of his house With a view to prevent the entry of intruders into his Toilet.

FactsThe deceased madilen was an inmate of a house near that of the accused. The wall of the Toilet of the House of the deceased had fallen down about a week prior to the day of the occurrence, with the result that her toilet had become exposed to public view.

Consequently the deceased, among others, Started using the latrine of the accused. The accused resented this and made it clear to them that they did not have his permission to use it.

 The Court established that:

  • The accused fixed up a copper wire across the passage leading up to the Toilet,
  • This wire was naked and insulated and carried current from the electrical wiring of his house to which it was connected,
  • There was no warning that the wire was live,
  • The deceased had previously managed to pass into the Toilet without contacting the wire, but one day as she came out, her hand happened to touch it and she received such a shock which resulted in her death soon after.
  • The voltage of the current passing through the naked wire being so high enough to be Lethal, there could be no dispute that charging it with current of that voltage was are rash act done in reckless disregard of the serious consequences to people coming into contact with it.
  • So, the accused is guilty under section 304-A of Indian Penal Code.

Juggan khan VS. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1965 S.C

The appellant, a registered homeopath, administered 24 drops of mother tincture stramonium and leaf of dhatura to Smt. Deoki, aged 20 years, who had been suffering from Guinea worm for six weeks.She accompanied by her mother, uncle and aunt went to the clinic of the appellant in pursuance of the advertisement made by the appellant that he treated Guinea worm.

After taking this medicine she start feeling restless and fell ill and ultimately died.

The Supreme Court held that “a doctor administering poisonous medicine to his patient without thoroughly studying what might be the effects of such medicine is liable under section 304-A IPC for causing death by rash and negligent act”.

State of Gujarat VS. Haidar Ali 1976 S.C

When a speeding truck while taking a turn in an open field, hits a cot(चारपाई) causing death of a person who was resting on it. Such death falls under section 304-A because the driver obviously did not wilfully drive the truck on the cot. It was either a rash or a negligent act.

Shankar Narayan Bhandolkar VS. State of Maharashtra 2004 S.C

In order to be encompassed the protection under section 304-A, there should be neither intension nor knowledge to cause death. When any of these two elements is found to be present, Section 304-A has no application.

Contributory Negligence

The Doctrine of contributory negligence implies that where the death of a person is caused partly by the negligence of the accused and partly by his own negligence. It means where both the parties contributed towards the offence.

The doctrine of contributory negligence does not applies to Criminal liability. It means that, If the accused is charged with contributing to the death of the deceased by his negligence, It does not matter whether the deceased was deaf or drunk or negligent or in part contributed to his own death and the accused will be liable for the offence.

Also Read :

Introduction to IPC

Right of Private Defence

Culpable Homicide & Murder – Complete Analysis

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