Difference between Murder and Culpable Homicide

24 Dec 2022  Read 94503 Views

In a law school, when semester exams are around the corner, and the questions on culpable homicide and murder stare back at law students like a challenging puzzle. And wonders what sets these two apart.

For laymen, both these criminal terms look intriguing and interchangeable in casual conversation, however have distinct meanings in the eyes of the law. In this blog, we will break down both these legal jargon, and let's start distinguishing culpable homicide from murder.

Culpable Homicide and Murder under IPC

Firstly, let's break down the basics. In the realm of criminal law, both culpable homicide and murder involve the unlawful taking of a human life. Chapter XVI: Of Offences Affecting Human Life of Indian Penal Code 1860, covers the definition, meaning, and punishment of culpable homicide and murder.

The major difference between culpable homicide and murder is very fine based upon the distinction of intention and knowledge involved in the criminal act. The differentiator factor is a degree of intention and knowledge. The nature of intention must be gathered from the kind of weapon used, the part of the body hit, the amount of force employed, and the circumstances that led to the cause of death.

In culpable homicide, death is the probable result, but in murder, it is the most probable result.

Culpable Homicide

The word "culpable" comes from the Latin word "CULPE," which signifies punishment. The Latin word "HOMO + CIDA," which means "human being + killing," is where the term "homicide" originates.

IPC Course

According to Section 299 of The Indian Penal Code, 1860, "whoever causes death by doing an act with the intention of causing death or with the intention of causing such bodily injury as is likely to cause death, or with the knowledge that he is likely to cause death by such act, commits the offence of culpable homicide."


The Germanic word "morth," which denotes a covert killing, is where the word "murder" started. Murder is only an aggregated form of culpable homicide. Murder is defined as killing a person by another person or a group of people who have the deliberate intent to take the life of the former.

If an offence does not contain one that qualifies as culpable homicide under the IPC definition of "murder," it does not constitute "murder." All killings are punishable by law, but not all homicides are murders. Murder is covered in Sections 299 and 300 of the Indian Penal Code.


A sharp weapon was used by an offender, "X", on "Y's" essential organ. The perpetrator is also aware that his actions will result in death. Naturally, Y will die as a result of this damage. This type of death is referred to as "murder."

On the other hand, Y killed X with a blunt instrument like a stick or stone. The likelihood of causing mortality is lower since injuries are more likely to occur in the strong parts of the body. This type of death is known as a Culpable Homicide.

Difference between Culpable Homicide and Murder

Basis of Difference

Culpable Homicide


Nature It is the GENUS. It is the SPECIES of Culpable Homicide.


Someone who causes the death of another by doing an act likely to cause that person’s death.

Someone who does any act resulting death of another with the sufficient intention to cause that person’s death.


1. Causing death

2. Doing an act

3. Intention and knowledge must exist

1. Causing Death

2. Doing an act

3. Presence of knowledge


299 and 304

300 and 302

Intention to cause death

May or may not have a direct intention to cause death.

Intention to cause death is a primary characteristic.


Lawful and unlawful

First- degree Murder, Second-degree Murder, third-degree Murder, Voluntary manslaughter, and Involuntary manslaughter.

Degree of Intention




The knowledge that the act will likely cause death.


Explanation/ Exception


  1. Causing injury to a disabled person
  2. Causing injury when remedies could be adopted
  3. Causing the death of a child inside a mother’s womb


  1. Grave and sudden provocation
  2. Private defence
  3. Performing Legal duty
  4. Sudden tussle
  5. Death with consent


Imprisonment for life or 10 years with or without a fine.

Death or Life imprisonment

“Every murder is culpable homicide, but every culpable homicide is not murder.”

The assertion that every murder is a culpable homicide but not every culpable homicide is the distinction between culpable homicide and murder, which explains murder.

As was already said, murder is simply an aggravated version of culpable homicide, regarded as the first degree of culpable homicide.

Culpable homicide takes murder's special characteristics. The concept of the gravity of the purpose serves as the foundation for the distinction between culpable homicide and murder.

Reading the word "likely," which signifies one probability that it may or may not cause death, in section 299, will reveal the degree of guilt. It is a component that draws attention to the fact that there is uncertainty regarding whether the accused's alleged deed killed the deceased or not.

While there is no room for ambiguity on the part of the accused in a murder case as defined by section 300 of the IPC, the accused is certain that his act would undoubtedly result in death.

The degree of responsibility makes a significant difference; when the probability of death is great, murder is considered; when it is low, culpable homicide is considered.

Knowing whether the accused's actions "caused" the victim’s death is crucial for assigning an act under the culpable homicide statute.

Understanding and interpreting the second key distinction between Knowledge and Intention is important. In the case of Basdev v. Pepsi, the Supreme Court considered the distinction between the two and determined that a motive causes a man to form an intention. Understanding the effects of one's actions is known as knowledge. In many situations, intention and knowledge are interchangeable terms that essentially mean the same thing, and knowledge can be used to infer intention. Although the distinction between knowledge and intention is tenuous, it is clear that they signify different things.

Meaning of beyond reasonable doubt

Real and reasonable doubt is required to prevent the conviction of guilt. The trial judge must rule against the party with the burden of proof if the evidence raises questions in his or her view. The adjudication panel has a duty to acquit the accused if it cannot decide with certainty whether or not the accused is guilty.

Let us look into the famous Case Law which dealt with these sections

The court stated in the case of K.N. Nanavati v. The State of Maharashtra that "the test to determine whether the accused's action falls under the purview of provocation or not is to examine whether any reasonable man having the same capacity and belonging to the same class or section of society, if placed in the same situation as the accused, would also be provoked to the point of losing his self-control."

The court additionally stated that the response to an abrupt and serious provocation should occur immediately and not wait until the person has had enough time to cool off.

  • If a prudent man from the same society as the accused were put in the same circumstances as the accused, would he have been so aroused as to lose his composure? This is the test of "sudden and grave provocation."
  • In some cases, an accused person may be suddenly and gravely provoked by words or gestures, which would qualify his behaviour as an exception.
  • The victim's mental history might be taken into account, together with his prior actions, to determine whether the current act provoked the offender suddenly and severely.
  • The deadly strike should be able to clearly trace the impact of passion that results from the grave and sudden provocation.
  • The fatal blow should be able to clearly trace the impact of passion that results from the sudden and grave provocation. It shouldn't happen after the provocation has subsided as a result of passing the time because doing so will allow the accused to change the evidence.


As was previously mentioned, there is a fine line between murder and culpable homicide. Murder is nothing more than an aggregate type of homicide. The aim behind the offence is the crucial component of consideration. The courts have repeatedly made efforts to differentiate between the two offences even though the ultimate consequence of both is the same.

It all comes down to a person's Mens Rea, or "guilty intention." If a person intentionally kills someone, it is considered murder, but if a person never planned to kill someone or didn't know they were going to, that is considered a culpable homicide.

About the Author: Gurpreet Kaur Dutta | 82 Post(s)

A legal content writer who pursued BBA-LL.B.(H) from Amity University Chhattisgarh. She has a keen interest in corporate and IPR sectors. 

Liked What You Just Read? Share this Post:

Finology Blog / Legal / Difference between Murder and Culpable Homicide

Wanna Share your Views on this? Comment here: