What Is Death by negligence under Section 304A, IPC?





Section - 304A. Causing death by negligence.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 two years, or with fine, or with both.


The Section is directed at offences which fall outside the scope of sec 299 & 300. When intention/knowledge is present then 304A has no application.

INGREDIENTS


1. Causing Death

2. By Rash or Negligent Act

3. Must not amount to culpable Homicide i.e. - Intention/Knowledge doesn’t matter

TECHNICALITIES

1. CAUSING DEATH

Death must be the direct result or nexus (causa causans) (i.e. immediate cause) of the rash or negligent act and not the proximate result (causa sine qua non)

SULEMAN RAHIMAN MULAM V. MAHARASHTRA AIR 1968 SC 829

Facts – The Accused had only learner’s License. While driving he struck deceased with his jeep. After that he put him in jeep for treatment but the deceased died. After that the accused cremated the body. he was charged with 304A.


Supreme Court – Death must be direct result of negligent act. There was no evidence of rash or negligent driving. Having learner’s license doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to drive. There was evidence that he drove jeep one day earlier properly. Hence the accused was Acquitted

2. RASH OR NEGLIGENT ACT

There is a distinction b/w Rash & Negligent act. (Refer point 5)

Rash’ or “rashness


a. recklessness, or

b. doing an act without due consideration.

c. Act done with indifference as to its consequences.

Here the doer is conscious of the mischievous or illegal consequences, does the act knowing it may bring undesirable results but without hoping or intending them to occur.

‘Negligent’


a. It connotes want of proper care.

b. It means gross and culpable neglect or failure to exercise reasonable and proper care and precaution.

c. It is an act without reasonable or sufficient precautions to avoid consequences.

d. implies omission to do something [test of reasonable man in same circumstances]

A] Negligence/ rashness doesn’t mean mere carelessness

Section 80 Accident in doing a lawful act.


Nothing is an offence which is done by accident or misfortune, and without any criminal intention or knowledge in the doing of a lawful act in a lawful manner by lawful means and with proper care and caution.

Here in this section this lack or absence of proper care and caution is punishable which is expected from a reasonable man.

B] Degree of Rashness or Negligence determines if the act would amount to rash and negligent act.


Must be of such a degree :-

a. where risk run is very high

b. is done with recklessness

c. and with total disregard to the consequences of the act


3. WHETHER A COURSE OF CONDUCT AMOUNTS TO NEGLIGENCE DEPEND ON CIRCUMSTANCES AND SURROUNDING FACTS.

CHERUBIN GREGORY V. STATE OF BIHAR 1964 SC 205

Facts- Deceased’s washroom's wall broke due to which he was Exposed to public view. so he started using accused’s washroom. Accused resented it and gave him warnings which proved to be ineffective. After this the accused fixed naked wire of high voltage there to make entry dangerous to intruders and put no warnings about it. The deceased accidentally touched it and died.

Accused contended – That he had a right to private defense of property and the death was caused in exercise of that right.

Supreme Court – Held him Guilty.


1. Mere fact he is a trespasser doesn’t entitle the accused to inflict personal injury to him by direct violence.

2. No doubt the trespasser enters at his own risk and the occupier owes no duty towards him to take any reasonable precaution.

3. But he is not entitled to willfully do such act with deliberate intention of causing harm to trespasser or in reckless disregard of the presence of the trespasser.

4. The Deceased died soon after shock ( Shows death was a direct result of the act).

4. ACT MUST NOT AMOUNT TO CULPABLE HOMICIDE / ABSENCE OF INTENTIONAL VIOLENCE

The act must not be done with intention of causing death. It’ll make the act culpable homicide.

SARABJEET SINGH V. U.P AIR 1983 SC 529

Facts – Accused part of a unlawful assembly who came to attack father of deceased (4 yr old) to take vengeance. While fighting they threw innocent child on ground who died consequently.


Supreme Court - Not a rash act as they had knowledge that the act was likely to cause death. Which makes the act culpable homicide (Sec - 299) and thus they were punished under Section 304.

5. DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RASHNESS AND NEGLIGENCE

BALACHANDRA WAMAN PATHE V. MAHARASHTRA 1968

Facts – Accused was driving at 35 miles/hr (Permissible) there was no proof that he was driving in a reckless manner (not acting with consciousness). However he was held guilty of negligence as he had duty to look ahead if there is any pedestrian in the pedestrian crossing. He failed to exercise reasonable and proper care & precaution that a reasonable man would have. Hence he was Convicted.

RASH ACT

  1. Act with recklessness or with indifference to its consequences.

  2. ‘culpable rashness’ means acting with consciousness that mischievous or illegal consequences may follow with the hope that it won’t and with belief that sufficient precautions are taken.


NEGLIGENT ACT

  1. Gross and Culpable neglect. Failure to exercise proper care and precaution. Where there was a duty of that person.

  2. There is an omission here which a reasonable man wouldn’t do.

  3. ‘Culpable Negligence’ means acting without consciousness that mischievous or illegal consequences may follow but here no proper precautions are taken.


→ RASH & NEGLIGENT ACT IN CASES OF DRIVING ALONG PUBLIC HIGHWAY

Section 304A is applicable in the cases related to the rash and negligent act in driving any vehicle along a public highway.

According to this Section, the person who is driving the vehicle :-

1. Must be either negligent or does the act rashly.

2. Must not have any intention or knowledge related to the fact that this act of his/ her will lead to the death of any person.

3. And that there must be the death of a person due to this.

In these cases, the principle of RES IPSA LOQUITUR is also applied.

DULI CHAND V. DELHI ADMINISTRATION, 1975

Facts - The appellant was driving a bus not at a great speed and while driving he struck the deceased who was riding a bicycle.


Supreme Court – CONVICTED - Negligence on the part of appellant - did not look at his right even though he was approaching a crossroad and failed to notice the deceased who was coming from his right was crossing the road.

MOHAMMED AYNUDDIN @ MIYAM V. STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH, 2000

Facts - Accused was a Driver in Andhra Pradesh Road Corporation. A passenger who boarded the bus fell down as bus moved forward and the rear wheel of the bus ran over her due to which she suffered injuries and died.

Witness - As the woman fell down the bus stopped after traveling some distance as the appellant heard the voice to stop the bus.

Supreme Court

1. Wrong to presume the negligence on the part of the driver in any motor accident negligence. It was further held that in an accident like this, it becomes important for the driver to prove that he/she is not negligent.

2. Res Ipsa Loquitur - cannot be applied everywhere - application depends on the situation.

3. There can be negligence on the part of the passenger or driver and there is a possibility that it is an accident.

4. Driver was unaware of the fact that there is even a possibility of an accident. The evidence, in this case, was found to be too scanty to fasten the driver with criminal negligence.

DOCTRINE OF RES IPSA LOQUITUR

The term means that ‘the things itself speaks’. It is applied where it is difficult to find who is negligent in the case. But it is well established (prima facie) that someone must be negligent in the case. When any train crashes, a bridge collapses or when any automobile is found inside the hotel lobby then it is very certain that it must be due to someone’s negligence.

But when we do not have any conclusive evidence regarding who was actually negligent then the doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur is applied. Here in the above cases, the crash of the train must be due to the conductor who fell asleep during the journey of the train. It is decided by the fact that who is the person/ authority etc. in control at the time of the accident.

The principle of res ipsa loquitur is a rule of evidence to determine the responsibility/onus of proof in actions related to negligence. This principle is applicable only when the nature of the accident and the circumstances related to the case would lead to the belief that in the absence of negligence the accident would not have occurred and the thing which caused the injury must be under the management and control of the wrongdoer.

- Mohammed aynuddin V. Andhra Pradesh

RAVI KAPUR V. STATE OF RAJASTHAN, 2012

In this case the principle/doctrine of res ipsa loquitur was discussed in detail.

Facts - “Sukhdeep Singh on marriage of his brother along with his family were in two jeeps and a Maruti car. On their way they met in an accident with a bus coming from the opposite direction at a very high speed. 8 person died on the spot.

Witnesses - bus was driven by the accused Ravi Kapur who after the accident ran away.

High Court – Liable - res ipsa loquitur, negligence, reasonable care.

The principle of res ipsa loquitur serves two purposes

1. It establishes the negligence on the part of the accused party and

2. it is applied in the cases where the claimant is able to prove that there is an accident but is not able to prove how the accident occurred.

Supreme Court - Decision of the High Court was right and appellant was held liable.


PUNISHMENT

After proving the person liability under Section 304A. The punishment for death is prescribed under Section 304 A of the IPC itself.

According to this Section, a person who is held liable for causing the death by negligence can be punished for the two-year jail or can be fined for the same or can be punished by both.

The term of imprisonment depends on the gravity of the crime and imprisonment can be rigorous in nature or can be simple in nature.

Its nature is also defined by the gravity of the crime and it varies from situation to situation as it depends on the situation.

It is a cognizable offense and has been put in the category of a heinous crime. Here the police officer can arrest the accused without a warrant. It is a bailable offense and a bail can be granted by the police and the court.

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