Causation under The Indian Penal Code

Causation under The Indian Penal Code

Causation is an interpretation for the word consequence, it is based upon the fact that a person is liable for the consequences of his actions, the nature of this doctrine is rather vast and tends to overlap with the principles of bothactus reus and mens rea. Although causation is seen as the consequences of the actus reus, while convicting one for a criminal offence, under the Indian Criminal Code is rather remains ambiguous. When looking at the Common English Law and the American Criminal Law there is a separate distinction between stating the doctrine of causation under specific sections, however this has not been integrated by the framers of the Indian Penal Code in the Indian Law, it is rather seen that its elements have been internalised within various sections.

By looking at different provisions there seem to be different approaches to separate causation from that of guilty mind and wrongful act, when dealt with cases of negligence there is a general understanding for the theory of causation that is followed. For instance in the case of  R v Le Brun (1991), the accused was convicted even though he lacked mens rea, his actions confined the due course of causation, confirming the primary offence led to a resultant death.

The doctrine of causation or rather its elements are mentioned in various sections of the IPC however a strict statute defining its interpretation is absent, due to the absence of the doctrine in a codified manner, different approaches are taken up by the court to render judgement for conviction. It is the courts role in India to further expand upon the understanding of the doctrine under criminal law, conviction judgements are passed upon the basis of facts given in each case differently. Under Section 304, with reference to the case of Sushil Ansal v State Through CBI (2014),  held that the gross negligence was on part of the cinema owners and not the employee, since the employee himself did not have the presence of guilty mind. It was seen that for an employment of chain of causation, in the case of Emperor v Omkar Pratap (1902), both causa sine qua non and causa causans, should be present.

However, when dealt with the cases under Section 302 of the IPC the courts apply strict rules of causation to pass conviction, giving benefit to the person accused. In the case of Subhash v State (2012) the accused threw acid on the victim which later led to her death, even though there was a long duration between the commencement of the actant the consequent death of the victim, that the court still held the accuse to be liable, as it was an unbroken direct chain of causation that linked the primary act to the resultant death. However the understanding of causation when interpreted severely, was violative of the principles under reasonability, the accused was not held liable for the bones that were inflicted by the father that bored water on the victim in good faith.

On the contrary, in the case of M. B. Suresh v State of Karnataka (2014), the court held that the chain of causation broke and was not continuous, since the cause of death was due to shock and the reason behind it could remain unknown, and cannot be directly linked with the primary act done by the accused of firing indiscriminately. The accused was not convicted for murder as the chain of causation had been broken rather was convicted for an attempt to murder that is specified under Section 307.


The statute for causation when looked upon through the IPC remains ambiguous, it can be seen that it is not separated from the elements of mens rea and actus reus, with this approach, causation is demarcated upon the circumstance with the existing evidence presented to the court for the purpose of conviction. Each provision has its own approach towards interpreting and applying the doctrine of causation, there must exist or uniform codified law under the Indian Criminal Code, rendering regulations the linkage of causation with mens rea and actus reus. While deciding upon a conviction should be based upon the fact that the act must itself be a cause and also causa sine qua non for the subsequent consequences. It can be seen as a necessity to incorporate the regulations of the implications and distinguishing of causation since if left unmodified would interrupt with the other pre-existing regulations.