EvidenceJudicial ExamLegal Notes

PCS (J) Notes: Indian Evidence Act, Sec 15, Accidental or Intentional Acts

 

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  • Accidental,
  • Intentional,
  • Done with a particular knowledge or intention,

The fact that such act formed part or a series of similar occurrences, in each of which the person doing the act was concerned, is relevant.

 

This previous section dealt with all cases in which mental state or bodily state is involved, whereas the present sections picks out only those cases where the question is whether a particular act is accidental or intentional. This section is a particular application of the general rule laid down in the previous section. Under this section, evidences of similar facts can be adduced in order to overthrow the defence that the act in question was a mere accident and not done with a particular intention.

A good illustration on this section is a Privy council case of Makin v. Attorney General for New South Wales, (1894) AC 57.in this case, the accused John and his wife Sarah Makin were prosecuted for the murder of a child whom they had earlier adopted from his parents. The body of the child was found buried in the yard of the house which they occupied for the time being. Their defence was that the child had died of natural causes. In order to overthrow this defence, evidence was offered to show that on earlier occasions also they had adopted babies and in each case the body of the baby was found buried in the respective house which they occupied from time to time.

This section would came into play only when it is doubtful as to whether the act was intentional or accidental, but where the act in question is apparaently intentional and there is no suggestion of accident, section 15 would not operate. This was pointed out by the C alcutta High Court in Emperor v. Panchu Das, (1920) ILR 47 Cal 671. In this case, the accused Panchu Das sometimes in 1914, introduced himself to a rich prostitute as a Raja’s or a Zamindar’s son. She agreed to become his mistress and allowed to visit her. In a day or two he introduced another man as his doorkeeper (darwan). Both of them regularly visited her and then suddenly disappeared and all the three women in succession lost their cash and ornaments.

In their trial for the murder and robbery of the first woman, the question of the admissibility of subsequent similar occurrences arose.  Majority held that such evidence was not relevant under any of the provisions of the act. It was not a question of the act being accidental or intentional. The woman was undoubtedly murdered in a brutal she possed both in her room or on her person had been stolen. There was no room for any doubt that the acts with which the accused were charged were intentional.

Thus where person was foolish enough to drown his three successive wives in the bath tub shortly after undergoing same form of marriage with them, the earlier two deaths were held to be relevant in his prosecutions for the third death showing that the death in each case was intentional or that he had the intention to cause death. Where the accused was prosecuted for causing the death of 2 women cyclist by driving his car against them, the fact that on two earlier occasional and one subsequent occasion he had driven at woman cyclists was held to be relevant as showing that in

Each case he was deliberate. [R. v. Mortimer, (1936) 25 Cr. App. R 150]

Such evidence is admissible, under section 15 itself, the restriction imposed by section 14 that facts must show the intention or knowledge towards the particular person or offences in question, should not be applicable. As long as they are similar occurrences, the evidence will be relevant even if other similar offences was against other persons and not towards the victim in question, for the evidence shows that in each case the man was intentional. From this point of view the judgment of the minority in Emperor v. Ranchudas, is to be preferred to that of the majority. The minority felt that the fact that the accused had committed similar offences towards other prostitutes showed that they intended to cause harm to each successive victim. It was not necessary for the relevancy of the evidence that the defence of accident should have been set up.

In considering this section a doubt may arise with respect to illustration (o) to section 14. Why should not the fact that A was in the habit of shooting at other people be relevant as forming “system” evidence under this section. It would not be because the question that arises in the illustration is whether A shot at B and not whether the killing of B was accidental or intentional. The matter depends on the unsoundness of the occurrence, the number of times it was repeated, each additional case increasing the improbability of accident.

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