Inchoate crimes are known as the preliminary or first stage of committing a crime. Under criminal law, we classify it in two types one being abetment and second attempt. Abetment means instigation, aiding, or conspiracy towards committing a crime and attempt is one step ahead of preparation, action towards completion of a crime. It is not defined as such under IPC but offences of attempt are covered under sec 511 of the Indian penal code.
There are total of four stages of a crime:
- Mens rea- That is guilty mind or evil intent
- Preparation- Action towards preparing or does an act that will help in reaching the criminal intent.
- Attempt- Any step taken after preparation towards commission.
- Commission- This is the final step also known as completion of the crime.
In an attempt, it is not necessary that there must be an injury inflicted on a person. Injury means harm to one’s body, mind, reputation, or property as per sec 44. Even if there is an attempt but not injury, still it will be concluded as an offence under the law. An attempt is made punishable to prevent the crime from happening and to protect the society as crime is considered to be larger wrong towards society. Now in cases where there is enough evidence or completion of the crime, it becomes easy for one to determine what appropriate action needs to be taken. At times, the act done is not the final act creates complication to determine the case. So for determining appropriate actions different theories were put out under law. Let us try to understand each one briefly.
- Proximity Test – This test is a combination of various precedents given out in the law before the judgment. It helps by measuring the closeness of the act that is how close the defendant was in the completion of the crime.
- Impossibility Test- In this the act itself is impossible of performance and yet it constitutes an offence of attempt.
Example- A tried to steal from B’s pocket but he had no money in it. So, even if A tried to steal from an empty pocket, it will be considered a crime.
- Social Danger Test- Graveness or seriousness of the crime attempted is used as a deciding factor in case of attempt. Mostly, crimes against women are considered to be crimes against the society in this court tend to lay extreme punishment to set a substantive law.
- Locus Poenitentias Test or Doctrine of Repentance- This states that a person cannot be charged for an attempt if he/she is still in a position to give up or abandon his/her plan out of his own hand after the formation of mens rea that is evil intent. Here we assume that the act is just preparation and not an attempt.
Example- Having evil intent and buying a rat poison is just a step towards preparation and not an attempt until A decided to put that poison in B’s drink with an intent to kill him.
- Res Ipsa Loquitor or equivocality test – In this act or the attempt committed is very clear and is speaking for itself. That means an act is in such proximity that it indicates beyond a reasonable doubt the end towards which it is directed.
There are prerequisite punishments as per sec 511 of the act like one where the same punishment is given in case of attempt and completion like that of sec 121,125,124 etc., second is separate punishment for attempt of the offence and an offence example: attempt to murder and murder or attempt to theft and theft. The third is where the only attempt is a punishable offence and not the offence itself example: There is only one crime under the law where a suicide attempt is an offence as an actual commission cannot be punished. Fourth Is that where no specific offence is determined in this case the punishment of attempt Is decided by the maximum punishment prescribed under law.