Section 511 of IPC, 1860 with reference to Section 307 and 308

The author in this article discusses Section 511 of the Indian Penal code with reference to Section 307 and 308 IPC and the related case laws. Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 dealing with attempt does not express any fault element whereas attempt under Sections 307 and 308 of the Indian Penal Code mentions the required fault elements.

Section 511 of IPC, 1860 dealing with attempt does not express any fault element whereas attempt under Sections 307 and 308 of the Indian Penal Code mentions the required fault elements.

To understand what is attempt of an offence, we need to understand the stages of crime. There are four stages of crime or commission of an offence, namely:

  • Intention or mens rea: This means the psychology of a criminal that forced him to commit an offence. It is impossible to prove and not punishable. But there are exceptions, that is, intentions to the punishable crime- Waging war against the Government and Sedition (Section 121-123 and Section 124A respectively)
  • Preparation: When a person buys a knife with the intention of murder, this is called the preparation of a crime. As usual, this is difficult to prove until the offence is committed. It also has exceptions where preparation is punishable- Preparation to commit Dacoity, Preparation for counterfeiting coins and government stamps and waging war (Section 399, 233 and 122 respectively)
  • Attempt: it can be defined as a definite step towards committing an offence after making all the preparation but due to some reason the offence could not be completed and once an attempt is made, the offender cannot go back to his life, he is moved beyond reason to complete the offence and get it over with. It can also be that an injury is caused but death is not. For example, if a person buys a pistol to kill another, he shoots him but does not kill him but injures him in the arm.In this article, we will be dealing with how the Indian Penal Code deals with the offence of Attempt.
  • Commission of Offence: this generally translates to the offence being committed, it is covered in the India Penal Code under various sections.

A lot of sections related to attempt in the Indian Penal Code carries the same punishment as the actual offence. But some offences require different punishments for the attempt and actual offence such as Section 307, that is, attempt to murder. Before we get into this let us understand the concept of attempt in IPC.

Section 511 of IPC, 1860

This section states the punishment for attempting any offence that is punishable with life imprisonment or other imprisonments. It states “Whoever attempts to commit an offence punishable by this Code with 1[imprisonment for life] or imprisonment, or to cause such an offence to commit­ted, and in such attempt does any act towards the commission of the offence, shall, where no express provision is made by this Code for the punishment of such attempt, be punished with 2[imprisonment of any description provided for the offence, for a term which may extend to one-half of the imprisonment for life or, as the case may be, one-half of the longest term of imprison­ment provided for that offence], or with such fine as is provided for the offence, or with both.[1]

Section 511 of IPC in general terms means that if an attempt is made to commit an offence that could have been easily converted into an offence, it is punishable with the same term of imprisonment or fine or both that the actual offence states. The imprisonment time could be one-half of life imprisonment or one-half of the longest term of imprisonment.

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The purpose of section 511 of IPC is clearly to punish for attempting an offence where the attempt is not explicitly mentioned in any other section of the IPC. It is also made to punish the moral wrong committed by a person and the unequivocal stress caused by the commission of such an attempt. For example, if someone tries to murder your family member and fails, you will be alarmed and under great stress and fear. This fear is instilled in a person after the attempt should be punished. The fact that a person will always look back at this incident filled with dread is considered while making this section and rightly so. Not just that, if a person can reach the stage of attempt, he can easily reach the stage of actually committing the offence.

Also, in the case of Abhayanand Mishra v. State of Bihar,[2] the Hon’ble Supreme Court has given the essential elements of attempt as:

  • Intention to commit an offence
  • Preparation id one for committing an offence
  • Failure to fully commit an offence for some reason

The illustrations of the section state what is considered an attempt under this section and how it differentiates from preparation.The illustrations are “(a)A’ makes an attempt to steal some jewels by breaking open a box and finds after so opening the box, that there is no jewel in it. He has done an act towards the commission of theft and therefore is guilty under this section. (b) ‘A’makes an attempt to pick the pocket of Z by thrusting his hand into Z’s pocket. ‘A’ fails in the attempt in consequence of Z’s having nothing in his pocket. A is guilty under this section.[3]

Both these illustrations are examples of an attempt of committing an offence. In illustration (a) it can be seen that the preparation was done by the person to break the box by buying a hammer, but after realizing that there is going to be nothing in it, did not go through the offence and hence can be termed as preparation. Whereas in illustration (b) it can be seen that once putting his hand in the pocket for pickpocketing is termed as being guilty of the offence and finding nothing is of no consequence in the whole transaction.

To have no doubts whatsoever as to what exactly is an attempt, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Koppula Venkat Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh[4]it was stated that “an attempt to commit an offence is an act, or a series of acts, which leads inevitably to the commission of the offence, unless something, which the doer of the act neither foresaw nor intended, happens to prevent this. An attempt may be described to be an act done in part execution of criminal design, amounting to more than more preparation, but falling short of actual consummation, and, possessing, except for failure to consummate, all the elements of the substantive crime.”

Section 307 and 308 under IPC

Section 307 deals with Attempt to murder and states it as a non-bailable and cognizable offence that is triable by the Court of Session. It also defines attempt to murder as “Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge, and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and if the hurt is caused to any person by such act, the offender shall be liable either to 1[imprisonment for life] or such punishment as is hereinbefore mentioned. Attempts by life convicts—2[When any person offending under this section is under sentence of 1[imprisonment for life], he may, if the hurt is caused, be punished with death.][5]This section states that when a person intentionally commits an act that may result in the murder of another person, shall be liable for an attempt to murder under IPC. But if it is seen that the act committed by the person cannot result in the death of another, it is not an attempt to murder. For example ‘S’ decides to put poison in the food of ‘F’ but does not serve it to him, it is not attempted, and if he does serve him and in consequence of it ‘F’ dies, then it is murder or if ‘F’does not eat it, then an attempt was made.  The punishment under this section is imprisonment for 10 years and/or fine.

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The ingredients for this section are:

  • Nature of act done, that is, any bodily injury caused
  • The intention of a person committing it- This is very important as if the intention for murder is not present the case becomes for culpable homicide and thus its attempt is not punishable under this section
  • How the act was committed- Just intention is not sufficient to constitute a crime, how the act was performed is equally important. The circumstances should not be such that death was impending and the person only facilitated it. 
  • The act should in ordinary circumstances cause death

In the case of Vasant Jadhav vs State of Maharashtra,[6]the view of the Hon’ble Supreme Court was that to justify a conviction under Section 307 only intention is not necessary to prove, the knowledge of the consequences after the offence is equally important as intention can be deducted from circumstances leading to the offence. The court termed it as “What the court has to see is whether the act, irrespective of its result, was done with the intention or knowledge under circumstances mentioned in the section. If the intention is to commit murder and in pursuance of that intention a person does an act towards its commission irrespective of the fact that the act is penultimate or not, the offence under section 307, Indian Penal Code, 1860 would be made out. An attempt in order to be a criminal need not be the penultimate act. It is sufficient in law if there is present an intent coupled with some act in execution thereof.”

Also, in the case of Kaluram v. State of Assam,[7] it was found that the accused had a dangerous weapon and had inflicted only minor injuries on the victim that showed that he had no intention of causing grievous hurt nor cause murder, thus, was not convicted under Section 307. Similarly, in the case of Kiran Kumar v. State of Gujarat,[8]the victim was stabbed near the navel region, and the intention for murder was found, thus the court ruled out that it is a case of attempt to murder and not grievous hurt.

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Section 308 deals with the attempt to commit culpable homicide and states that “Whoever does any act with such intention or knowledge and under such circumstances that, if he by that act caused death, he would be guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both; and, if the hurt is caused to any person by such act, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.[9]This means that any act that is done with the intention and knowledge of causing bodily harm that may result in the eventual death of the person inflicted upon, the accused will be liable for culpable homicide and if it does not result in the eventual death, then it is an attempt under section 308 of IPC. For example, if ‘G’ is provoked by the words of ‘D’ and shoots him, and ‘D’ dies ‘G’ will be liable for culpable homicide but if he does not die, then ‘G’ is liable for an attempt to culpable homicide. The punishment for this section is imprisonment that may extend for three years, fine or both.

The ingredients of this section are:

  • Nature of the act- whether it was grievous hurt or not
  • Intention and knowledge of the act
  • The act should likely cause death
  • Execution of the act
  • Act if completed should have resulted in culpable homicide not amounting to murder

In the case of Bishan Singh and Anr. v. The State[10]the accused were arrested for an offence under Section 147 and 308/149 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and were the only ones that had survived from a group of six. The victim was assaulted with laathis and he was robbed of Rs. 400 out of his pocket. The victim was assaulted with the intent of killing him.

Conclusion

Section 511 of IPC deals with the attempt made in all the offences whose attempt is explicitly not mentioned in the IPC. It does not explicitly state the elements necessary for making an offence punishable under this section as it deals with a lot of offence and not only one. For example, the offence for pickpocketing, the attempt is dealt with under section 511 of IPC, so the only fault element there is to prove that the act should result in pickpocketing. Whereas Section 307 and 308 deal with the specific attempt of murder and culpable homicide respectively. Both these sections give fault elements or what exactly is needed to make an act punishable under these sections as they deal with specific offences. They need to mention the fault elements to hold people accountable. 

Also read The role of ‘mens rea’ under Section 420 of IPC.


[1] Section 511 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

[2] (1961) A 1698

[3] Section 511 of the IPC

[4] (2004) 3 SCC 602

[5] Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

[6]  2004 Appeal (Crl.) 522 of 1997

[7] 1977 CrLJ 98

[8] 1985 CrL(NOC) 22 Guj

[9] Section 308 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

[10] (2007) Insc 1015 (9th October 2007)