Criminal LawMurder

How to prove and investigate murder in the case of death by poisoning ?


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Please note before reading this article that this article was written in good faith to convict the guilty person. Please don’t use it on innocent accused. As collecting evidence in the case of death by poisoning is to some extent easy by medical practitioner but to corroborate it in such a way to prove conviction is near impossible.

In case of Criminal poisoning, the law in India does not insist on the precise definition of a poison, since the sections of Indian Penal Code dealing with offences relating to the administration of as poison make use of such self-explanatory terms as ‘any poison or any stupefying, intoxicating, or any wholesome drug, or other thing’, or ‘any corrosive substance or any substance which is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow or to receive into blood’. With regard to any poisonous substance used in section 284 of the Indian Penal Code, all that the law requires is that the substance is such as, if taken, is likely to endanger human life, or will cause hurt or injury to any person.  Again, the law takes cognisance of the malicious intention of the individual who administer a drug or other substances, with a view to cause injury or death, irrespective of the quantity or quality of the substance.

In the case of murder by poison the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that;

  • The deceased died of a particular poison;
  • The accused was in possession of the same;
  • He had opportunity to administer the same to the deceased.[1]

In case of death by poisoning when motive as circumstances is put forward, it must be fully established like any other incriminating circumstances. In a poisoning case there is two possibilities, the accused will be given benefit of doubt as any infirmity or lacuna in prosecution cannot be cured by false evidence or plea.

Read: How to investigate a murder case?

In the case of death by poisoning benefit of doubt always stands with the accused. In one case the young lady was strangulated in her-laws house within few months of her marriage. She was not suffering from any disease but medical report was not sure as to cause of death and possibility of partial hanging could not be ruled out. The accused was acquitted by giving him benefit of doubt.[2]

In another case the accused administered mercuric chloride mixed with tamarind into vagina of his wife who immediately thereafter started feeling severe burning sensation in her genitals. Initially doctors admitted administration of poison but subsequently turned hostile and victim died after 44 days due to renal failure. The accused being a scientist knew the use and misuse of the chemical substance and general effect of such poison is renal failure and such poison is not traceable3 after 4 or 5 days of its administration. The conviction of the accused for murder was upheld.[3] The allegation was that the death of the deceased was caused by administrating celphos, a poisonous substance but as per medical evidence the congestion of organs of deceased was due to some other reasons i.e, due to food poisoning but police omitted to protect the place where samples of vomits could be found. Motive was not discovered and conviction of accused was held liable to be set aside.[4]

Diagnosis of Poisoning –

The diagnosis of poisoning has to be made in the living as well as in the dead.

In the Living; In order to avoid police investigation most people are unwilling to supply true information and correct history of the case. However, it can be done in below mentioned case;

  • Where the person is healthy, the onset is usually sudden and it can be deducted on sudden change in the symptoms of the victim except in chronic poisoning where the symptoms develop gradually and may easily be mistaken for a diseases. In addition it should be suspected if similar repeated attack of vomiting or diarrhoea occur in a person after a meal. Drink or medicine. In chronic poisoning the victim’s working and daily condition must be investigated.
  • The symptoms usually commence within about an hour after the poison has been taken in a particular kind of food, drink, or medicine if it is not administered orally, but by some other channel, in which case, the effect may be immediate. Moreover, the symptoms of some diseases such as cholera, acute pancreatitis and rupture of the stomach may appear all of sudden, soon after taking a meal or drink. In condition it may be mentioned that a criminal may take the advantage of some epidemic diseases occurring at the time and may administer a poison producing the symptoms almost similar to those of the epidemic, so that death may be attributed to it. According to Modi Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology circumstances may be witnessed where arsenic was administered and death was attributed to cholera present as an epidemic at the time. However, the post-mortem examination revealed the sign of irritant poisoning and the Chemical Examiner detected arsenic in the viscera.
  • The symptoms of uniform in character, and rapidly increase in severity followed either by death or early recovery. Sometimes remission may occur in the opium poisoning and certain poison may leave sequelae inn a long duration, should be taken into consideration by intelligent advocate to bring out the mishandling of evidence.
  • The detection of poison in the food, medicine, vomit, urine or faeces is a strong proof of poisoning. The learned advocate shall not forget to look over all the parameter of evidences. Ignorance of one can question veracity of the total evidence.

In the Dead—Diagnosis in the dead which is beneficial for advocate to proof the case and convict the guilt minded person is to be taken in moral and circumstantial evidence.

Read: How to proof common intention in criminal cases?

In the case of poisoning the fact whether the accused was the person who administered the poison can be proved only from moral and circumstantial evidence. This is furnished by common witness who testify to the recent purchase of the poison by the accused. The medical evidence cannot overthrow circumstantial evidence if proved beyond reasonable doubt.

[1] Budhwari Bari v. State of M.P. 1991 CrLJ 3054 (3058) relying on Mohon v. State of U.P. AIR 1960 SC 659 CrLJ 1011

[2] Babu v. State, 2003 CrLJ 1011 (Ori) : 2002 (4) Crimes 24 : 2002 (94) Cut LT 76

[3] Marepalli Ventaka Sree Nagesh v. State (2002) CrLJ 3625 (AP) : 2002 (2) Andh LT (cri) Ap 52

[4] Jaipal v. State of Haryana, (2002) CrLJ 4703 (SC) : AIR 2002 SC 3447


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