In this article I have given the definition and scope of the term ‘rash or negligent act’ as has been interpreted by the Courts of law from time to time. A reading of the article will help a layman to get an overview of how an act will fall in the purview of rashness or negligence and attract criminal liability.
A rash or negligent act causing death or grevious hurt is a punishable offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 304-A and Section 338 of the IPC deals with rash or negligent act leading to death or grevious hurt respectively. In order to convict a person under these provisions it must be proved that the rash or negligent act was the direct or proximate cause of death or grevious hurt.
The expression rash or negligent has not been defined as such but has acquired a definite comprehendible meaning because of its frequent interpretations by the Courts of law.
Any act done without due deliberation and caution and thereby is in all likelihood sufficient to run the risk of causing death or grevious hurt can be said to be rash. The criminality of an act of rashness lies in the commission of an act with recklessness or indifference to consequences. Criminal rashness has been interpreted to mean hazarding a dangerous or wanton act with the knowledge that it is so, and that it may cause injury, but without intention to cause injury or knowledge that it will probably be caused. Under the English law, rashness means recklessness.
It may be subjective or objective. In the subjective sense, it means deliberate or conscious taking of an unjustified risk which could be easily foreseen and in the circumstances of the case was unreasonable to take. In the objective sense, it almost amounts to negligence. In other words, rashness is acting with the consciousness that the mischievous and illegal consequences may follow, but with the hope that they will not and often with the belief that the actor has taken sufficient precaution to prevent their happening.
The immutability arises from acting despite the consequences. Rashness can then, be said to mean doing an act without due care and caution and with the knowledge that such act might cause death or injury but without the intention to cause such death or injury.
The expression ‘negligence’ has been interpreted to mean an omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. It involves blameworthy heedlessness on the part of the accused which a normal prudent man exercising reasonable care and caution ought to avoid.
Criminal negligence is the gross neglect and failure to exercise that reasonable and proper care and precaution to guard against injury, either to the public generally or to an individual in particular, which having regard to all the circumstances out of which the charge has arisen, it was the imperative duty of the accused person to have adopted.
The immutability in culpable negligence arises from the civic duty of circumspection that is when a person is acting without the consciousness that the illegal and mischievous act will follow, but in circumstances which show that the actor has not exercised the caution incumbent upon him and, if he had, he would have had the said consciousness.
An explanation to the term ‘contributory negligence’ is required to get a complete picture of the topic. Contributory negligence means contribution to the negligence by the other party also. The doctrine of contributory negligence has no place in the indictment of criminal negligence. Merely by showing that the person who has been wronged was himself negligent does not absolve the accused from the consequences of his rash or negligent act.
In other words, such negligence on the part of the deceased or the injured which resulted in his own death or grievous hurt, will not be available as a valid defence to the accused if the accused himself had done some act or omission which was rash or negligent and which contributed towards the death or the causing of grevious hurt.
While appreciating the scope of the expression ‘rash or negligent’ it should be borne in mind that knowledge or intention to cause death or injury is not a mandatory requirement to attract criminal liability. It would be sufficient if the act of the accused was so rash or negligent that a prudent man could have anticipated the consequences.
Written by- Anshika Agrawal @LEXCLIQ
Topic- Homicide by Rash and Negligent Act