November 25, 2023 In Uncategorized


A two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Abhay S. Oka passed a judgment dated 21.11.2023 in Nanhe vs. State of U.P. INSC 1011 2023 in Criminal Appeal No. 2791 of 2023 held that a person will be held liable for murder if he mistakenly kills a man other than the person he intended to kill. In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of Trial Court and High Court and held the accused guilty.


The incident took place between 3 people on 30.05.2007, where Mahendra was injured and a person named Saddam Hussain was killed. Consequently, two cases were filed against the accused Nanhe under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) (Punishment of murder) and under Section 25 of Arms Act 1959 (Arms Act) (Punishment for certain offences). Mohd. Ali was the father of the deceased i.e. Saddam Hussain and both were present there at the time of the incident. Mohd. Ali saw Nanhe and Mahendra quarrelling with each other. Sant Ram who was the brother of Mahendra intervened between them and asked Nanhe (Appellant) to leave the place.

After this, Nanhe went back but after walking 15-20 steps, he stopped and turned around with his country made pistol in his hand and fired a shot. The shot pierced the neck of the deceased, and hit the head of Mahendra.  Nanhe was caught on the spot and Saddam was taken to the district hospital where he died. The weapon and the cartridges were retrieved from the Appellant. The Trial Court and the High Court were of the view that the Appellant is guilty of an offence under Section 302 IPC.


A) Whether the said offence is liable to be reduced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder falling under second part of Section 304 IPC (Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) in view of the fact that the Appellant had no intention to kill the deceased.

B) Whether due to intoxication, the Appellant was incapacitated to understand the consequences and nature of the act.

C) Whether the ‘Doctrine of Transfer of Malice’ or ‘Transmigration of Motive’ will be applicable in the present case as stated in Section 301 IPC (Culpable homicide by causing death of person other than person whose death was intended).

Supreme Court Findings:

(1) The Supreme Court placed reliance on the judgment of Shankarlal Kacharabhai & Ors vs. The State of Gujarat, AIR 1965 SC 1260, where a similar incident took place and the Supreme Court held that in cases where a person has an intention to kill someone, but kills a different person, whose death he neither intends nor knows himself to be likely to be caused, Section 301 IPC will be applied and the accused will be deemed to have killed the deceased intentionally. Intention or knowledge to kill another person is not necessary to invoke Section 301 IPC.

(2) The Supreme Court also referred to the decision of Rajbir Singh vs. State of U.P. and Anr. (2006) 4 SCC 51, where it overturned the decision of the High Court which ignored Section 301 IPC. In the abovementioned case, a lady suffered injuries accidently while she was walking and shots were fired with an intention to kill someone else. The Supreme Court held that “The aforesaid provision clearly shows that if the killing took place in the course of doing an act which a person intends or knows to be likely to cause death, it ought to be treated as if the real intention of the killer had been actually carried out.”

(3) The Hon’ble Supreme Court was of the view that as per the ‘‘Doctrine of Transfer of Malice or Transmigration of Motive”, the Appellant herein is guilty of committing an offence of culpable homicide amounting to murder punishable under Section 302 IPC. The Supreme Court also stated that the fact that the intention was to kill somebody else is completely immaterial in these circumstances.

(4) With regard to the question of lack of knowledge of the offence due to intoxication, the Supreme Court provided that Section 86 IPC (Offence requiring a particular intent or knowledge committed by one who is intoxicated) comes into picture which states that-

In cases where an act done is not an offence unless done with a particular knowledge or intent, a person who does the act in a state of intoxication shall be liable to be dealt with as if he had the same knowledge as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated, unless the thing which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowl­edge or against his will.”

Section 86 also provides that the person must be incapable of understanding the nature of the act that he is committing. Moreover, for application of the above-said provision, it has to be seen whether such intoxication has been done by administering to him against his will or without his knowledge.

(5) With regard to the present case, the Apex Court was of the view that although PW1 Mohd. Ali had accepted the fact that the Appellant was highly intoxicated but even in such a situation he was able to walk properly and had gone 15 to 20 steps away from the place of quarrel and then returned and fired the shot. This ultimately proves that the Appellant was not mentally incapacitated and was mentally alert of the circumstances and consequences of the act.

(6) Moreover, there was no evidence to prove the fact that the Appellant was incapacitated to know and understand his actions.


The facts and the issues of the case clearly indicated that the incident had taken place on account of a quarrel between the Appellant Nanhe and Mahendra and due to which Saddam Hussain who had no connection with the other two died. The Supreme Court was of the view that the present case would clearly come under the purview of Section 302 IPC. Also, the submissions of the Appellant were irrelevant regarding the intention and incapacity of the Appellant to kill the deceased. Moreover, the fact that the Appellant wanted to kill a particular person but killed someone else accidently invokes the ‘Doctrine of Transfer of Malice’ or ‘Transmigration of Motive’ and hence the Appellant can be held liable for murder. Hence, the Apex Court upheld the judgment of the High Court and confirmed the conviction and punishment of the Appellant under Section 302 IPC.

Editor’s Comments:

The criminal law always deems a person innocent until proven guilty and that too the guilt must be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. In the present case, the entire evidence clearly pointed to the guilt of the Appellant and yet he took of mistaken committed crime. The Apex Court after seeing that the facts clearly established mens rea to commit murder did not accept the plea of the applicant that the crime was committed by mistake.


Arjav Jain


The Indian Lawyer & Allied Services

Leave a Reply