Causation

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PRINCIPLE OF CAUSATION

Every criminal action can be divided into actus reus, mens rea and causation. Actus reus compacts with the ‘guilty act’, mens rea with the ‘guilty mind’ and the causation compacts with the consequences of the actus. In crimes, which require consequence like murder, causation is a essential and imperative element. The absence of causation between the actus and the consequence may render a verdict untenable in spite of the existence of the necessary mens rea and actus reus.
The doctrine of causation is based on the simple principle that ‘a man can only be held liable for the consequence of his own actions’. The entire doctrine is effectively based on the interpretation of a single word: ‘consequence’. A liberal definition of the word consequence extends not to only direct acts of a person but also to the acts done through innocent agents like cases of duress, or use of infants or insane people to commit crime. In the Suryanarayan Murthy case1 the court stated that IPC in itself at three instances supported transfer of malice. First, Section 299 and 300 in themselves in their wordings do not refer to the death of a specific person or the intended person. Section 299 of IPC, “Where death is caused by bodily injury, the person who causes such bodily injury shall be deemed to have caused the death, although by resorting to proper remedies and skilful treatment the death might have been prevented.”2 Second under Illustration (b) under section 299 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860: “A knows Z to be behind a bush. B does not know it. A, intending to cause or knowing it to be likely to cause Z’s death, induces B to fire at the bush. B fires and kills Z. Here B may be guilty of no offence, but A has committed the offence of culpable homicide.”3 Thirdly, there is Section 301 which specifically deals with death of a person other than the intended victim. Due to this comprehensive and liberal nature of the principle of causation, it often

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