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Basdev Vs. State of Pepsu: A Review


Authored by - Sania Vinayan

Keywords - Indian Penal Code, Section 302-304, 86, Murder, Actus Reus, Intoxication, Mens Rea


Name of the Case: Basdev Vs. State of Pepsu

Equivalent Citation: AIR 1956 SC 488, 1956() ALT 593 (SC), 1956C ri LJ 919, [1956] 1 SC R 363

Name of the parties: Appellants- Basdev; Respondents- The State of Pepsu

Bench: N. Chandrasekhara Aiyar and N.H. Bhagwati, JJ.

Court: Supreme Court of India


Abstract


This article reviews the case of Basdev v. The State of Pepsu - This case has contributed immensely to the field of criminal law. This case specifically talks about the circumstances under which defence of incapacity due to drunkenness can or cannot be used as a defencein a criminal trial.

Introduction


The case of Basdev v. The State of Pepsu is a significant landmark judgement. In this case, the Supreme Court deals with issues pertaining to culpable homicide amounting to murder and its essential components to attract the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

Background of the Case


The current case was decided by the Supreme Court of India, on 17th April 1956. In this case, the appellant, in a state of drunkenness, shot a boy and the injury proved to be fatal, resulting in his death. The defence taken was the incapacity to form an intention to kill, due to severe drunkenness. As the case unfolded, the offence was NOT reduced from murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, under the second part of Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code. The appeal was dismissed.

Facts


(1.) The appellant Basdev belonging to the village of Harigarh is a retired military Jamadar. He is charged with the murder of a young boy named Maghar Singh, aged about 15 or 16 under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. People in living in the same village had gone to attend a wedding in another village. All of them went to the house of the bride to take the midday meal on 12th March, 1954. Some had settled down in their seats and some had not. The appellant asked Maghar Singh, the young boy to step aside a little so that he may occupy a seat of his choice. However,Maghar Singh did not move. The appellant whipped out a pistol and shot the boy in the abdomen. The injury proved to be fatal.


(2.) The party that had assembled for the marriage at the bride's house was merry and much drinking was indulged in. The appellant Jamadar boozed quite a lot and he became very drunk and intoxicated. The learned Sessions Judge says "he was excessively drunk" and that "According to the evidence of one witness Wazir Singh Lambardar, he was almost in an unconscious condition". The prevailing circumstances and the absence of any motive or premeditation to kill was taken into account by the Sessions Judge and the appellant was awarded the lesser penalty of transportation for life.


(3.) An appeal to the PEPSU High Court at Patiala proved to be unsuccessful. Special leave was granted by this Court, limited to the question of whether the offence committed by the petitioner fell under S. 302 or S. 304 of the Indian Penal Code having regard to the provisions of S. 86 of the Penal Code. Section 86 which was elaborately considered by the High Court runs in these terms: "In cases where an act done is not an offence unless done with a particular knowledge or intent, a person who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be liable to be dealt with as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated unless the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will"[1]

Issues


The main issue of the case was whether the offence committed fell under Section 302 or 304 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).[2] with concern to Section 86 of the IPC[3]

Ratio Decidendi


A crime essentially requires two ingredients: actus reus and mens rea. The first is the action of a crime (physical) and the second is the intention to commit a crime or the knowledge that the action would cause harm. The question that was dealt in this case was, what happens if the crime is committed under intoxication?


Section 86 of the IPC[4] states that “A person committing a crime while intoxicated shall be liable to be dealt with as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated.” Hence the question arose:


“If in voluntary drunkenness knowledge is to be presumed in the same manner as if there was no drunkenness, what about those cases where mens rea is required. Are we at liberty to place intent on the same footing, and if so, why has the section omitted intent in its latter part?”


The judgment can be summarized as follows:


· Whether being drunk renders a person incapable of forming a specific intent for the crime, should be taken into consideration with other facts to determine whether or not, he had this intent. This becomes a question of fact.


· If the evidence of drunkenness does not prove incapacity of forming intent, and merely shows that his mind was affected enough by the drink to have given in to some violent passion, it can be presumed that the man intended the natural consequences of his act.


· The judgment also stated that in cases where there is a lack of evidence to prove that the act was done due to insanity owing to drunkenness, the existence of intent should be inferred by taking into consideration other facts proved in the case.


· In the present case, evidence proved that the accused was capable of moving himself independently and talking coherently. He also came to the ‘darwaza’ of Nath Singh himself. After shooting the deceased, he also attempted to get away, which proved that he realized the consequences of his actions.


Hence, according to the SC “The accused had, therefore, failed to prove such incapacity as would have been available to him as a defence, and so the law presumes that he intended the natural and probable consequences of his act, in other words, that he intended to inflict bodily injury to the deceased and the bodily injury intended to be inflicted was sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death.”

The conviction and sentence were held right, and the appeal was dismissed.

Concepts Highlighted


The case comprehensively discusses certain aspects of the Indian Penal Code, which includes culpable homicide amounting to murder, actus reus, men rea and offences under the influence of intoxication. It is used as a precedent in several judgements regarding intoxication and mens rea.

[1] An excerpt from http://www.the-laws.com/Encyclopedia/Browse/Case?CaseId=006591330000

[2] Indian Penal Code: S 302. Punishment for murder. —Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or 1[imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine. 302. Punishment for murder. —Whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or 1[imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine.

S 304. Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.—Whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life], or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine, if the act by which the death is caused is done with the intention of causing death, or of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.

[3] Section 86. An offence requiring a particular intent or knowledge committed by one who is intoxicated.—In cases where an act 302 done is not an offence unless done with a particular knowledge or intent, a person who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be liable to be dealt with as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated, unless the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.

[4] Supra 3

References


[1] Case Document from: https://www.manupatrafast.com/

[2] https://www.lawyerservices.in/Basdev-Versus-State-of-Pepsu-1956-04-17

[3] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1569253/

[4] http://www.the-laws.com/Encyclopedia/Browse/Case?CaseId=006591330000