Bonda Kui Vs. Emperor: A mistake of fact in murder.

Through this 5 minute read you will learn that killing a human, supposing her to be an 'evil spirit' did not make the accused liable as she did the act under a mistake of fact.

 

TITLE Bonda Kui Vs. Emperor 
CITATION AIR 1943 Pat 64
COURT High Court of Patna
JUDGES/CORAM Chief Justice Harries and Justice Manohar Lall
DATE OF JUDGEMENT 25.03.1942

INTRODUCTION

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for various criminal offences and their ingredients thereof to convict the law offenders. Simultaneously, the Code also provides certain protections to the accused persons under Chapter IV by providing for “General Exceptions”. One of such provisions, Section 79, protects acts done under mistake of fact. The present case deals with the Section and an act purportedly done by reason of mistake.

FACTS

The facts of the case are as follows: On the night of 15th November 1940, Bonda Kui and her niece were the sole residents of the house. In the middle of the night, she saw a figure dancing in a state of complete nudity with a broomstick tied on one side and a torn mat around the waist. The woman thought it is an evil spirit which consumes humans and so she gave repeated blows by a hatchet and felled the thing to the ground. She immediately informed her niece that she had killed an evil spirit. 

Examination showed, however, that she had killed a human being who was the wife of her husband’s brother.

The only evidence is this case were the statements made by the appellant from time to time. All along she maintained that she did not take the unfortunate deceased to be a human being at all. She thought that it was something which eats up human beings.

ISSUES

The main issues in the case were:

  1. Whether or not Bonda Kui’s conviction was justified.
  2. Whether or not Bonda Kui should be fully protected under Section 79 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

SUMMARY OF COURT DECISION AND JUDGEMENT

The Sessions Judge did not give the protection of Section 79 to the woman and convicted her under Section 304 of IPC. However, keeping in the mind the state of society to which she belonged and her superstitious beliefs, the Judge imposed upon her a sentence of six years rigorous imprisonment only. Thus, the Additional Sessions Judge convicted fifty years old Bonda Kui only for an offence under Section 304 of IPC and sentenced her to imprisonment.

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Aggrieved of the judgement, she appealed against the same before the Patna High Court. The learned 2-judge bench of the Court held that she was fully protected by Section 79 of the Indian Penal Code. It set aside the lower court’s conviction.

ANALYSIS

Section 79 of the Indian Penal Code states that, nothing is an offence which is “done by any person who is justified by law, or who by reason of a mistake of fact and not by reason of a mistake of law in good faith, believes himself to be justified by law, in doing it.”

In the Court’s view, the statements that Bonda Kui made, conclusively showed that she thought, by reasons of a mistake of fact, that the shadow was that of an evil spirit who eats up human being. The Court said that the circumstances must be borne in mind. It was the middle of the night. The only occupants of the house were the appellant and her niece, no male members were present. It was also taken into account that she did not take the deceased to be a human and made this statement immediately to her niece as well. Thus, with the above view, the judge allowed the appeal and set aside the conviction imposed upon the appellant.

However, I disagree with the court’s verdict. The woman gave repeated blows to the figure with a hatchet and later on when she closely examined the figure she must have discovered that she killed a human. In other words, when Bonda Kui closely examined the figure after giving repeated blows, she could have easily identified that the figure was her sister-in-law.

The reasoning given by her that she believed it to be an evil spirit does not make any sense. It might be true that she believed the figure to be an evil spirit until she stopped giving the blows. However, later on, when she closely examined the figure, she should have been able to identify. Therefore, the conviction given by the Sessions Judge was correct in my opinion. 

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CONCLUSION

To re-iterate, I believe the Court’s decision was flawed and it should have considered the actual circumstances and logical reasoning to reach the judgement. It is by way of such judgments that offenders of the law get away with their wrongs.  

–END OF CASE COMMENT–