-By Preyoshi Bhattacharjee
The mention of rash and negligent act in IPC is found in Section 304A and 279 and several other sections. Section 304A deals with ‘causing death by negligence’. Negligence and rash act are two different kinds of act. A rash act implies an act done by a person with recklessness or indifference as to its consequences. A negligent act is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.
Death By Negligenge
Section 304A states that-
“Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
This section was inserted by the IPC (Amendment) Act, 1870. This section deal with the cases which fall outside the range of Section 299 and 300, where neither intention nor knowledge is present. The cases where death of a person is caused by the rash or negligent act is covered by this section. There are certain essentials of this section and those are-
1. The death of a person should be caused;
2. The death must be caused by any rash or negligent act of the accused;
3. The death should not be covered under culpable homicide.
Rash Or Negligent Act
There is a huge difference between rash and negligent act. In the case of Emperor v. Abdul Latif and another[] the inspector was moving towards the Sialkot cantonment and he saw two tongas coming towards him in a reckless speed, he signaled the two to stop but they did not stop. The people even had to jump aside to save their lives. Later the inspector chased them. The Court held them liable under Section 279 of IPC for rash driving on a public way. The Court also held that even in ordinary parlance, ‘negligence’ connotes want of proper care and ‘rashness’ conveys the idea of recklessness or the doing of an act without due consideration. There is thus a clear distinction between ‘negligence’ land ‘rashness’.
A rash act implies an act done by a person with reckless or indifference as to its consequence. The doer, being conscious of the mischievous or illegal consequences, does the act knowing that his act may bring some undesirable illegal results but without hoping or intending them to occur.[] In Re JC May[] the court held that negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.
The term negligence used in IPC is not mere carelessness. Mere carelessness would amount to negligence under civil law not under the criminal law. The degree of negligence really determines whether a particular act would amount to negligence in criminal law or not. Whether there exists negligence per se depends upon the conduct of the person and thus, will depend on the circumstances of the case.[]
In the case of Cherubin Gregory v. State of Bihar[] the deceased was an inmate of a house near that of the accused. The wall of the washroom of the deceased had fallen making it exposed to public view. Consequently, the deceased and others started using the bathroom of the accused. He clearly told them not to use his bathroom, but they continued to use it. Therefore, the accused fixed a naked wire of high voltage, to make the entry to the intruders very dangerous. But the deceased went to use the bathroom and died due to the electric shock. The Court held that there is no doubt, that the trespasser enters the property with his own risk, but at the same time, the occupier is not entitled to willfully do any act, such as setting up a trap of naked live wire of high voltage, with the deliberate intention of causing harm to trespassers. It was held that as the deceased died soon after the shock, the accused was guilty under Section 304A of IPC.
Death Must Be The Direct Result
In order to impose criminal liability under this section, it is essential to establish that the death is the direct result of the rash or negligent act of the accused. If the death is a remote cause, then no liability will be created as such. In the case of Sulaiman Rahiman Mulam v. State of Maharashtra[] the accused, who was driving a jeep struck the deceased, as a result of which he sustained serious injuries. The accused put the deceased in the jeep for medical treatment, but he died. Then the accused was charged under Section 304A of IPC. But the Court acquitted him of the charge, as no sufficient evidence was there to show that the deceased died due to the rash driving of the accused because he was driving within the speed limit.
Thus, in this case the accused was acquitted of the charge because there was no evidence to show that the death was the direct result of the rash driving of the accused.
Difference Between Rashness And Negligence
A rash act is primarily an overhasty act.[] Negligence is the breach of duty caused by omission to do something, which a reasonable man guided, by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do.[] The Supreme Court in the case of Bhalchandra Waman Pathe v. State of Maharashtra[] distinguished between a rash and a negligent act:
“There is a difference between rash act and a negligent act. In the case of a rash act, criminality lies in running the risk of doing such an act with recklessness or indifference as to the consequence. Criminal negligence is the gross and culpable neglect or failure to exercise that reasonable and proper care and precaution to guard against injury either to the public generally or to an individual in particular, which, having regard to all the circumstances out of which the charge has arisen, it was imperative duty of the accused person to have adopted. Negligence is an omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided upon those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do, or doing something which a prudent or reasonable man would not do. A culpable rashness is acting with the consciousness that the mischievous and the illegal consequences will follow, but with the hope that they will not, and very often with the belief that the actor has taken sufficient precautions to prevent their happening. The imputability arises from acting despite the consciousness. Culpable negligence is acting without the consciousness that the illegal and mischievous effect will follow, but in circumstances which show that the actor has not exercised the caution incumbent upon him and if he had, he would have had the consciousness. The imputability arises from neglect of the civic duty of circumspection.”
So, by this we come to know three differences between a rash and a negligent act. These are as follows:
1. Rash is primarily over hasty act. Negligence is a breach of duty imposed by law.
2. Rashness means doing an act with the consequences of a risk that evil consequences will follow but with the hope that they will not happen. Whereas, negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.
3. The criminality is lies in running the risk of doing such an act with recklessness or indifference as to the consequences. But negligence may either civil or criminal negligence depend upon the nature and gravity of the negligence.
1) AIR 1944 Lah 163
2) See Pitala Yadagiri v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1991) 2 Crimes 359 (AP)
3) AIR 1960 Mad 50
4) Ravi Kapoor v. State of Rajasthan AIR 2012 SC 2896, (2012) 9 SCC 284, (2112) Cr Lj 4403 (SC)
5) AIR 1964 SC 205, (1964) Cr Lj 138 (SC)
6) AIR 1968 SC 829
7) See Baijnath Singh v. State of Bihar AIR 1972 SC 1485
8) Hari Singh Gour, Penal Law of India, Vol. 3, 11th edition, Law Publishers, Allahabad, 1998, p 3028
9) (1968) 71 Bom LR 634 (SC), (1968) SCC 198