Ashish Kumar Patel
The author is a first-year student at DNLU Jabalpur
Editor: Ms. Ragini Sehgal
In our criminal law, only rational and sane men are held accountable for their wrong acts. For a crime to be committed, actus rea (criminal act) and mens rea (criminal intent) have to be present. But what if there is the absence of a criminal intent. In this case commentary, a popular case relating to Section 304 A of IPC, i.e., Cherubin Gregory v. State of Bihar is discussed to understand the concept of ‘Death caused by Negligence’.
ESSENTIALS OF THE CASE
CITATION: AIR 1964 SC 205
BENCH: 3 Judge Bench
CORUM: N. Rajagopala Ayyangar and J.C Shah, JJ and B.P Sinha,CJ
APPELLANT: Cherubin Gregory
RESPONDENT: State of Bihar
DATE OF JUDGEMENT: July 31st, 1963
FACT OF THE CASE
1. Cherbin Gregory (Appellant) and Mst. Madilen (Deceased) both are inmates to each other.
2. Due to the fall of the wall of her latrine approximately a week before the day of the incident, the deceased, along with others, began using the accused’s toilet.
3. The accused was infuriated by this and informed them that they did not have his authorization to use it, and objected to their movement.
4. However, the verbal warnings were insufficient, so he installed a naked copper wire across the path leading to his latrine, which transmitted electricity from his domestic connection, without any warning that the wire was live.
5. Even, the deceased was able to enter the latrine without touching the wire, but when she was exiting, her hand came into contact with it, causing her to receive a shock, and she died shortly afterwards.
6. The appellant was found guilty and punished under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code by both the trial and appeal courts. As a result, this appeal has been made:
Section 304 A of the Indian Penal Code which enacts:
“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.”
1. Is it possible that the death was caused by exercising the right to private property defense under section 97 of the Indian Penal Code?
2. The accused argued that the victim had been sufficiently warned, citing the fact that it was after sunrise at the time of the occurrence, thus there was plenty of light, and that a light source was shining at a considerable distance. Can it also be considered a defense?
3. If the current running through the wire is lowered to the point where it will simply kill someone, then the act is authorized under section 304A of the IPC.
The court held that-
1. A trespasser was not a caput lupinuem (an outlaw). The mere fact that a trespasser entered a property did not authorize the owner to inflict bodily harm on him through direct violence, and the same essence would apply to inflicting injury on the trespasser through indirectly doing something on the property, the consequence of which he should know was prone to cause injury to the trespasser.
2. Although this case falls under section 299(3), it is not justified to impose such a penalty on the accused, because although the accused did something, his intention was not to cause death but simply for his benefit. If death inflicts harsh punishment, punishment is necessary, but to a lesser extent, as there is no excuse for murder or murder under sections 299 and 300, and death must ultimately occur.
3. The mere fact that a person entering the land is an offender does not, in itself, give the owner or occupant the right injury by direct violence, and will regulate the damage by doing something indirectly on the ground under the same principle. The impact, he should be aware, can do serious harm to the trespasser.
4. There is no doubt that the trespasser will break into the property at his own risk and the occupant is under no obligation to take reasonable steps to protect it, but at the same time, the lessee cannot perform willful acts such as setting up traps, installing exposed wires, that are energized, with the intent of harming violators or recklessly disregarding violators.
“The trespasser breaks in at his own risk, but the intruder sets up a trap designed to inflict bodily harm on him or, for example, takes measures calculated to inflict bodily harm on an offender he knows, or perhaps should be, Don’t get drunk, don’t set spells or spring pistols.
Consequently, the appeal was dismissed.
It is, no doubt true that the offender enters the building at his own risk and the occupant is under no obligation to take reasonable steps to protect him, but at the same time the occupant is not permitted to do anything willful, such as setting up traps. Alternatively, exposed live wires are installed to harm the intruder or recklessly ignore the intruder’s presence. This case showed that the law cannot come into its own hands and that no one can do anything wrong if it is ill-treated.