In the recent judgment State of Uttarakhand v. Sachendra Singh Rawat,1 the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has clarified the circumstances from which the intention of an accused to cause death of someone can be gathered, in order to determine whether an offence of murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is committed or not.  


The accused and the deceased (Virendra Singh) were attending a wedding ceremony, where some altercations took place between the two, but the same was brought to control by people present there. Later in the night, the accused attacked Virendra Singh using a Phakadiyat – a rough piece of wood and he sustained multiple injuries on his head. Virendra Singh later succumbed to injuries. Upon the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) by the wife of the deceased, a chargesheet against the accused was filed for the offence punishable under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as “IPC”).  

The trial court relied upon the testimonies of several witnesses to convict the accused for murder under Section 302 of IPC and sentence him to life imprisonment. Aggrieved, the accused approached the High Court of Uttarakhand at Nainital. The Hon’ble High Court believed that the case was of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. This observation was made on the ground that it was not a murder but a sudden fight that ensued in the heat of passion between the accused and the deceased. The High Court held that the accused did not have any intention to kill or commit the murder of the deceased and therefore, the case would fall under the fourth exception to Section 300 IPC. Finally, the Hon’ble High Court reduced the sentence awarded to the accused from life imprisonment to ten years’ rigorous imprisonment. Feeling aggrieved, the State moved the present appeal before the Supreme Court. 


The Supreme Court observed that the High Court had made a mistake in ordering that the case would fall under the fourth exception to Section 300 IPC i.e., culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The Court noted that the incident when the accused had attacked the deceased with a Phakadiyat, cannot be said to be a result of a sudden fight in the heat of passion upon a sudden quarrel. 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court took into consideration the case of Pulicherla Nagaraju vs. State of A.P.2. In this case it was observed and held by the Supreme Court that the intention to cause death can be gathered generally from a combination of a few or several of the following, among other, circumstances:

  • nature of the weapon used;  
  • whether the weapon was carried by the accused or was picked up from the spot;  
  • whether the blow is aimed at a vital part of the body;   
  • the amount of force employed in causing injury;  
  • whether the act was in the course of sudden quarrel or sudden fight or free for all fight;  
  • whether the incident occurs by chance or whether there was any premeditation;  
  • whether there was any prior enmity or whether the deceased was a stranger;  
  • whether there was any grave and sudden provocation, and if so, the cause for such provocation;  
  • whether it was in the heat of passion;  
  • whether the person inflicting the injury has taken undue advantage or has acted in a cruel and unusual manner;  
  • whether the accused dealt a single blow or several blows.  

The above list of circumstances is, of course, not exhaustive and there may be several other special circumstances with reference to individual cases which may throw light on the question of intention. 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court finally held that accused was held guilty for the offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for having killed and/or committed the murder of the deceased and sentenced him to undergo life imprisonment. Further, the judgment and order passed by the trial Court convicting the accused Section 302 of the IPC and sentencing him to life imprisonment was restored.