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Indian Case Summary

Basdev vs The State Of Pepsu on 17 April, 1956 – Case Summary

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In the case of Basdev vs The State Of Pepsu on 17 April, 1956, the Supreme Court of India was confronted with a complex legal issue involving the intersection of criminal intent, the act of murder, and the state of intoxication. The case was presided over by Justice N. Chandrasekhara Aiyar.

Facts of the Case

The appellant, Basdev, a retired military Jamadar from the village of Harigarh, was charged with the murder of a young boy named Maghar Singh, aged about 15 or 16. Both of them, along with others from the same village, had attended a wedding in another village. During the midday meal at the bride’s house, Basdev, who was heavily intoxicated, asked Maghar Singh to move aside so he could occupy a convenient seat. When the boy did not comply, Basdev shot him in the abdomen with a pistol, causing fatal injuries.

Issue Before the Court

The central issue before the court was whether the offense committed by Basdev fell under section 302 (murder) or section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code, considering the provisions of section 86 of the same code. Section 86 deals with acts done in a state of intoxication and their legal implications.

Court’s Observations and Judgment

The court, in its judgment, made several critical observations. It noted that while knowledge must be attributed to the intoxicated man as if he were sober, intent or intention must be gathered from the general circumstances of the case, paying due regard to the degree of intoxication. The court also distinguished between motive, intention, and knowledge, stating that while motive prompts a man to form an intention, knowledge is an awareness of the consequences of the act.

The court referred to several previous judgments, including the House of Lord’s decision in Director of Public Prosecutions v. Beard, which laid down three rules regarding the impact of drunkenness on criminal intent. These rules were:

  1. Insanity, whether produced by drunkenness or otherwise, is a defense to the crime charged.
  2. Evidence of drunkenness which renders the accused incapable of forming the specific intent essential to constitute the crime should be taken into consideration with the other facts proved to determine whether or not he had this intent.
  3. Evidence of drunkenness falling short of a proved incapacity in the accused to form the intent necessary to constitute the crime, and merely establishing that his mind was affected by drink so that he more readily gave way to some violent passion, does not rebut the presumption that a man intends the natural consequences of his acts.

In the present case, the court found that although Basdev was under the influence of alcohol, he was not so intoxicated that his mind was obscured to such an extent that he was incapable of forming the required intention. The court noted that Basdev was capable of moving independently, talking coherently, and even realized what he had done after the act. Therefore, the court held that Basdev was presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his act, and his offense was not reduced from murder to culpable homicide not amounting to murder under the second part of section 304 of the Indian Penal Code. The conviction and sentence were upheld, and the appeal was dismissed.