Stages of Crime

A Crime is committed in various stages. There are 4 stages of Crime:

  1. MENTAL CONTEMPLATION

“Mental contemplation, also known as Intention is the direction of the conduct towards the object chosen Upon considering the motive which suggests the choice.” – James Stephens

  • This stage is not punishable because it is not possible to read the mind of a person and it is absolutely difficult to define contemplation in the mind of the person.
  • There are very few exceptions of this stage. Like abatement, where mere abeting the person tantamounts to offence.
  1. PREPARATION
  • It means, arranging means and measures necessary for commission of an offence.
  • Generally it is not punishable because it is impossible to show that preparation was directed towards wrongful ends or was done with an evil intent or mind.

But this is not an absolute rule:

Exceptions

When offences are so grave that it would be of utmost importance to stop it at the stage of preparation itself. That is why it is punishable even before the actual Commission of the crime.

Example:

  • Section 233, making or selling instrument for counterfeiting coin.
  • Section 234, making or selling instrument for counterfeiting Indian coin.
  • Section 399, making preparation to commit dacoity.
  1. ATTEMPT
  • The word “attempt” means, “to try or to endeavour to do something”.
  • Attempt means an act towards the Commission of the offence which fails due to circumstances independent of the attemptor’s will. Thus, it means any voluntary act which does not fructify into yielding the intended result.
  • The term attempt has nowhere been defined in IPC. Chapter 23rd section 511 which is titled as attempt to commit offences, does not give any definition of attempt but simply provides for punishment for attempting to Committing the offence.

Are vs Eagleton,

Justice park held that, “acts completely leading to the commission of the offence are not to be considered as attempt to commit, but acts immediately connected with it are”.

State of Maharashtra VS. Mohammad yakub 1980 S.C

“The Supreme Court observed that, an attempt to define the term attempt is a futile exercise, However the attempt stage is reached when culprit takes deliberate overt steps to commit the offence.”

Kinds of attempts under IPC

  • Wherein the main offences and their attempts have been made punishable in the same section.

Example Section 124-A, 153-A, 171-B, 171-C, 385, 387, etc.

  • Where the attempts have been made punishable separately but side by side the main offences.

Example: Section 307, 308 and 393

  • Section 309, which is the only kind in the code wherein if the offender succeeds in his attempt, he could not be punished. {Suicide}
  • Section 511 which deals with rest of the attempts for which no separate provision is present in the code.

In Sudhir kumar Mukherjee VS. State of West Bengal

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that, an attempt to commit the offence begins, when the preparation is complete and the culprit commences to do something with an intention of committing the offence and which is the step forward to committing the offence.

There is a very thin line between the stage of preparation and attempt. An attempt to commit an offence essentially begins when the culprit does something towards Commission of the offence.

Last Proximate Act

A last proximate act is an act done by the culprit just before the main offence.

The Bombay High Court judgment in Cassidy VS. Emperor 1867, caused an unnecessary controversy in which the accused who pointed an uncapped gun at his superior officer, believing the gun to be capped, with the intention of causing his death, but his rifle having been pushed up and prevented him from pulling the trigger, it was held guilty of attempt to commit murder under section 511 and not under Section 307.

Subsequently, The Bombay High Court itself doubted this view in :

Vasudeva Balwant Gogte VS. Emperor 1932, Bombay H.C

In which the accused fired 2 shots by a revolver at point blank range at the acting governor of Bombay but pocket withstood the impact.

He was held guilty under section 307 and not under section 511 of this code.

 Sagayam VS. State of Karnataka 2000 S.C,

The Apex Court conclusively rejected last proximate act as the defining factor for attempt and held as follows:

“The test to find out the difference between attempt and preparation is whether the act already done are such that if the offender changes his mind and does not proceed further, the act already done would be completely harmless. If it is so, it is mere preparation and if it is not so, it is an attempt.”

  • The dividing line between a mere preparation and an attempt is so thin that it has to be decided on facts of each cases.
  • So in the above case, The Supreme Court finally rejected L.P.A by saying that LPA is confusing to us as well as to the prosecutor as a deciding factor between preparation and attempt.

Now the factor deciding is whether there is Point of Return or not.

In Surendranath Das VS. Emperor,

If A intend to hurt B by administering poison, prepares a glass for him and fills it with Poison But while A’s back turned, C who has observed A’s act, pours away the poison & fills the glass with water, while A in ignorance of what C has done, administers to B, A is guilty and can be convicted of an attempt to cause hurt by administering poison.

Impossible Attempts

An impossible attempt is such an attempt where an attempt would never bring about the main crime whatever the efforts be on the part of the accused.

Impossible attempts should not be punished at all but the impossibility should be absolute and not relative.

Example:

  • If A fires at log of woods believing it to be an enemy then there is no offence because there is absence of subject matter. So, Absolute impossibility is there.
  • If A thrusts his hand in pocket with Intention to steal but there is nothing in B’s pocket. This is an offence of attempt to commit theft as there is absence of subject matter but the impossibility there is relative and not absolute.

Inchoate Crime

Incomplete crime which under certain circumstances has to be made punishable.

Section 511 – Punishment for attempting to commit Offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment

Whoever attempts to commit an offence punishable by this penal code with imprisonment for life or imprisonment or to cause such an offence to be committed and in such attempt does any act towards the Commission of the offence,

Shall, where no express provision is made by the code for the punishment of such attempts, be punished with imprisonment of any description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-half of the imprisonment for life or in any other case, one-half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for that offence, or with such fine as is provided for the offence or with both.

This section simply explains that:

  1. If the offence is punishable with imprisonment for life or any other imprisonment and attempting of the offence is not punishable anywhere in this code, then these attempts are covered under this section.
  2. The punishment for attempting such offences may be:
    • One-half of the imprisonment for life, or
    • One-half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for that offence, or
    • With the fine provided for the offence, or
    • Both, imprisonment as well as fine provided for that offence.
  • Section 511 is a general section that makes punishable all attempts to commit Offences punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment Except those punishable with death or with fine only.
  • This section does not apply to offences under special or local laws.
  • The Offence under this section is,
    • According as the offence is Cognizable or non-cognizable
    • According as the offence attempted is bailable or non-bailable
    • Non-compoundable
    • Triable by the court by which offence attempted is triable.

Ingredients of Section 511

The conditions stipulated in the provision for completion of the said offence are:

  • Offender should have done some act towards the Commission of the main offence.
  • Such an attempt is not expressly covered As a penal provision anywhere in the penal code.

Satvir Singh VS. State of Punjab AIR 2001 S.C

“Attempt on the part of the accused is the sine qua non for the offence under section 511.”

Illustration

  • A makes an attempt to steal some jewels by breaking a box and finds that there is no jewels in it. He has done an act towards the Commission of the offence of theft, and therefore is guilty under this section.
  • A makes an attempt to pick the pocket of B by thrusting his hand into B’s pocket. A fails in his attempt in consequence of B’s having nothing in his pocket. A is guilty under this section.

 

  1. ACCOMPLISHMENT

This is the final stage of any crime. Generally most of the crimes are punishable only after the crime has been committed.

Example:

If a person Buys a gun with an intent to murder his enemy but keeps the same in his pocket. He would not be guilty at the stage. He would only be culpable after he either makes a direct attempt towards the actual murder or actually commits the murder.


Also Read:

Introduction to IPC

Culpable Homicide & Murder – Full Explanation

Theft VS. Extortion

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