1. The appellant has been convicted by the Sessions Judge of Shajapur of an offence under Section 302, Penal Code, for the murder of her three children and also of an offence under Section 309, Penal Code, for an attempt to commit suicide. She has been sentenced to transportation for life under Section 302 Penal Code, and to six months simple imprisonment under Section 309, Penal Code. Both these sentences have been directed to run concurrently. She has now preferred this appeal from Jail against the convictions and sentences.
2. The facts of this case are very simple. The prosecution alleged that the appellant, her children, her husband Jagannath and her sister-in-law Kaisar Bai used to reside together. There were constant quarrels between the appellant and her sister-in-law and very often Jagannath used to slap the appellant for picking up a quarrel with her sister-in-law Kaisar Bai. It is alleged that one such quarrel took place on the morning of 14.8.1951 when Jagannath was away from his home. In this quarrel Kaisar Bai asked the appellant to leave the house. Thereupon, the appellant left the house, taking her three children aged 7 years, 5 years and 1 years and saying that on account of her sister-in-law she would jump into a well. Soon after, the appellant went to a well in the village and threw herself into the well along with her three children. A few hours after, some inhabitants of the village found Gyarasibai supporting herself on an edge of the well and the three children dead in the well. The appellant admitted before the Committing Magistrate as well as before the Sessions Judge that she jumped into the well together with her children on account of her sister-in-law Kaisar Bai’s harassment.
3. The facts have been amply established by the prosecution evidence. From the statement of Kaisar Bai and Narayan it is Clear that on the morning of the day ox occurrence, there was a quarrel between Kaisar Bai and Gyarasi Bai, and during this quarrel when Kaisar Bai asked the appellant to leave the house, she left the house with her three children, saying that she would jump into a well. Kaisar Bai also admits that some times Jagannath used to give two or three slaps to the appellant for quarrelling with her. The other prosecution witnesses deposed to the recovery of the bodies of three children and to the rescue of the appellant. There is no eye-witness of the fact that the appellant jumped down the well herself together with her three children. But from the statements of Kaisar Bai, Narayan and the statement of the appellant herself before the Committing Magistrate and the Sessions Judge, I am satisfied that the version given by the appellant in her own statement is correct and that she jumped into the well herself along with her three children in order to escape harassment at the hands of her sister-in-law Kaisar Bai.
4. On these facts the only question that arises for consideration is whether the appellant is guilty of the offence of murder of the three children and of attempted suicide. The learned Sessions Judge has found her guilty under Section 302, Penal Code, but he has not stated under which clause of Section 300, Penal Code, the act of the appellant in jumping down into a well together with her three children is murder. I think this act of the appellant clearly falls under the 4th clause of Section 300, Penal Code, which defines murder. On the facts it is clear that the appellant Gyarasi Bai had no intention to cause the death of any of her children and she jumped into the well not with the intention of killing her children but with the intention of committing suicide. That being so, Clauses 1, 2 and 3 of Section 300, Penal Code, which apply to cases in which death is caused by an act done with the intention of causing death or causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause the death of person or sufficient in the ordinary course of nature to cause death cannot be applied to the present case. The only clause of Section 300. Penal Code, which then remains for consideration is the 4th clause. This clause says:
If the person committing the act knows that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death, or such bodily injury as is likely to cause death and commits such act without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid.
5. It will be seen from this clause that if death is caused merely by doing an act with the knowledge that it is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death, then the act is not murder as is defined in Clause 4, but is mere culpable homicide not amounting to murder. In order that an act done with such knowledge should constitute murder, it is essential that it should have been committed “without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such bodily injury”. The question, therefore, is whether when the appellant jumped into the well together with her three children, she had the knowledge that her act was so imminently dangerous, as to cause in all probability the death of her children and further whether if she had such knowledge her act in jumping into a well with her children was “without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such bodily injury as is mentioned in Clause 4 of Section 300, Penal Code. Now I think it cannot be said in the present case, with any degree of force that when the appellant jumped into a well with her children she had not the knowledge that her act was so imminently dangerous as to cause the death of her children. Her life might have become unbearable owing to domestic troubles and perhaps on account of these troubles, she decided to take her own life. I am also prepared to hold that on account of the discord in the house, the appellant was subjected to severe exasperation and to a long course of conduct causing suffering and anxiety. But when on account of all these reasons, she left the house on the day of the occurrence saying that she would jump into a well with her children, it cannot be said that she was in such an abnormal state of mind that could not have any Knowledge of the nature of her act.
Every sane person – and in this case we are bound to take it that the appellant was sane – is presumed to have some knowledge of the nature of his act. This knowledge is not negatived by any mental condition short of insanity. In my opinion, the act of the appellant in jumping into a well with her children is clearly one done by the appellant knowing that it must in all probability cause the death of her children. I do not find any circumstances to come to the conclusion that the appellant had some excuse for incurring the risk of causing the death of her children. The fact that there were quarrels between the appellant and sister-in-law and that her life had become unbearable on account of this family discord, cannot be regarded as a valid justification for appellant’s act of jumping into a well with her children.
The words used in Clause 4 of Section 300, Penal Code are “without any excuse for incurring the risk of causing death or such injury as aforesaid”. These words indicate that the imminently dangerous act is not murder if it is done to prevent a greater evil. If the evil can be avoided without doing the act, then there can be no valid justification for doing the act which is so imminently dangerous that it must, in all probability, cause death or such injury as is likely to cause death. Here there is no material, whatsoever, to come to the conclusion that the appellant could not have escaped the harassment at the hands of her sister-in-law except by jumping herself into a well with her three children. I am, therefore, inclined to think that the appellant’s act is clearly murder under Clause 4 of Section 300, Penal Code.
6. I must, however, notice two cases in which the question of the offence constituted by an act of a woman deliberately jumping into a well with a child in circumstances somewhat different to those present in this case has been considered. The first case is one reported in – Emperor v. Dhirajia ILR (1940) All 647. In this case a village woman left her home with her six months old baby in her arms on account of her husband’s illtreatment; after she had gone some distance from the home, she turned round and saw her husband pursuing her. She became panicky and jumped down into a well nearby with the baby in her arms. The baby died, but the woman survived. On these facts, the learned Judges of the Allahabad High Court held that an intention to cause the death of the child could not be attributed to the woman, though she must be attributed with the knowledge that such an imminently dangerous act as jumping down the well was likely to cause the child’s death.
But the learned Judges held that considering the state of panic she was in, the culpable homicide did not amount to murder as there was an excuse for incurring the risk of causing death. Mst. Dhirajia was thus found guilty under Section 304, Penal Code. It is not necessary to consider whether upon the facts of that case, the conclusion that the woman was guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was justified. But it must be observed that the learned Judges of the Allahabad High Court thought that the fear of her husband and the panic into which she was thrown could be an excuse for incurring the risk of causing death. Here there is no question of any panic or fright of the appellant. It is, no doubt, true, as the learned Judges of the Allahabad High Court say that in assessing what is excuse or is not excuse, we must consider the state of mind in which the accused person was.
But I think in considering the question we must take into account the state of mind of a reasonable and legally sane person and then determine whether the risk of causing death could have been avoided. On this test, there can be no room for thinking in the present case that the appellant was justified in jumping into a well with her three children merely on account of her sister-in-law’s attitude towards her. The other decision is of the Bombay High Court in – Supadi Lukada v. Emperor AIR 1925 Bom 310. In that case too, a girl of about 17 years of age who was carrying her baby on her back jumped into a well because her husband had ill-treated her and had prevented her from returning to her parents.
The learned Judges of the Bombay High Court held that when the girl attempted to commit suicide by jumping into a well she could not be said to have been in a normal condition and was not, therefore, even aware of the child’s presence and that as she was not conscious of the child, there was not such knowledge as to make Section 300(4) applicable. The learned Judges of the Bombay High Court found the girl guilty under Section 304A. The Bombay case is clearly distinguishable on the facts. In the present case when the evidence shows that the appellant left her home saying that she would jump into a well with her three children, it cannot clearly be held that she was not aware that her children were with her. In my opinion, these two cases are not of much assistance to the appellant.
7. As regards the conviction of the appellant for an attempt to commit suicide, I think she has been rightly convicted of that offence. When she jumped into the well, she did so in a conscious effort to take her own life.
8. The appellant has been sentenced to transportation for life under Section 302, Penal Code, This is the only sentence which could legally be passed in this case. But having regard to the fact and circumstances of the case and also to the fact that the appellant though not legally insane was not and could not be in a normal state of mind when she jumped into a well with her three children, I think this is not a case deserving of a severe punishment. I would, therefore, recommend to the Government to commute the sentence of transportation for life to one of three years rigorous imprisonment. The sentence of six months’ simple imprisonment awarded to the appellant for the offence under Section 309 is appropriate.
9. In the result this appeal is dismissed.
10. I agree.
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