- Intention to commit crime;
- Preparation to commit crime;
- Attempt to commit crime;
- Commission to commit crime
Intention is the direction of the conduct towards the object chosen upon considering the motive which suggests the choice Mere intention or contemplation to commit a crime is beyond the purview of criminal law. Intentions are punishable only if they are accompanied by some express words (Section 503 IPC) or an overt act aimed towards achieving the intention.
After the stage of intention, starts the stage of preparation, it essentially involves devising or arranging means or measures necessary for the commission of the contemplated crime. As a general rule preparation is also not punishable. However, IPC punishes preparations to commit a few serious offences. The law allows “locus penitentiae”, or a chance to repeat.
Preparation punishable under IPC,
Preparation made for waging war against the GOI (sec 122).
Preparation made for committing depredations on territories of any power in alliance or at peace with the GOI (sec 126).
Making or selling or being in possession of instruments for counterfeiting coins or government stamp (sec 233-235 and 257).
- Preparation to commit dacoity– Section 399.
An attempt to commit crime is essentially a direct movement towards the commission of the contemplated offence after preparations are made. Thus, the stage of attempt is the third stage in the commission of the crime. At this stage, the offender attempts to commit an offence though he may not be successful in his endeavour, hence, he is said to have attempted the commission of an offence.
Attempt is the direct movement towards the commission after the preparation is made. After the stage of preparation, the offender takes a further step of doing an act in furtherance of his intention, but despite doing the act he does not become successful in committing the particular offence which he has intended. In such a case, he can be said to have made an attempt to commit an offence. Hence, he is held liable for attempting to commit the particular offence.
Attempts under IPCThe Indian Penal Code has dealt with attempt in the following four different ways-1. Completed offences and attempts have been dealt with in the same section and same punishment is prescribed for both. For instance, Section 121, 124-A, 391.2.Attempts to commit offences and commission of specific offences have been dealt with separately and separate punishment is provided. For instance, murder is punished under section 302 and attempt to murder under Section 307.3. Attempt to commit suicide is punished under section 309.4. All other cases where no specific provisions regarding attempt are made are covered under section 511 which provides that the accused shall be punished with one-half of the longest term of imprisonment provided for the offence or with prescribed fine or with both.
Impossible AttemptAn attempt is called as impossible attempt when the following conditions are met.
He or she intended to commit the offence;
He or she did everything that was required for the completion of the offence; and
- The completion of the offence was made impossible by facts not known to him or her or because of circumstances beyond his or her control.
Eg: A person who, believing in witchcraft burns an effigy with the intention of causing him hurt. Here the conduct of accused was not physically capable of completing the offence, so not liable for punishment.
Impossibility is sometimes pleaded in answer to a charge of attempt, with the accused contending that the facts were such that it was impossible for him or her to complete the offence no matter how hard he or she tried.
Eg: A who, with intent to hurt B, prepares a glass filled with poison. Unnoticed by A, C pours away the poison and refills the glass with water which A, in ignorance of what C has done, serves to B. Here A was liable for attempting to cause hurt by administering poison.
The concept of impossibility has been categorised into two parts namely physical and legal impossibility.
In cases of physical impossibility, some extraneous factual circumstance makes it impossible for an accused to achieve the result, whatever means he or she adopts. The consequence of physical impossibility is that the accused is liable for the attempted offence.
Eg: A makes an attempt to pick the pocket of Z by thrusting his hand into Z’s pocket. Z is having nothing in his pocket than also A is liable for attempt to commit theft.
In legal impossibility, the result the accused intends, if achieved, will not be the crime he or she believed would be committed. In case of legal impossibility the person is under a mistaken belief that his act is a crime but in fact his act does not amounts to crime.
An example is where the accused had taken his own umbrella from a stand thinking that it belongs to another person
Aman Kumar and Anr v. State of Haryana AIR 2004 SC 1498: Attempt to commit an offence according to the SC of india, is an act or a series of acts, which leads to commission of the offence, unless something, which the doer of the act neither foresaw nor intended , happens to prevent this.
When intended crime is actually committed, a man can be held liable for its commission: he becomes successful in his attempt to commit crime, and the consequences of the crime materialise.
Example: ‘X’ intends to kill ‘A’ (intention), purchases a gun, loads it, aims at ‘A’ (preparation), and pulls a trigger (attempts), and the bullet hits ‘A’ killing him(commission). Needless to say, ‘X’ can be held liable for Murder
In Abhayanand Mishra v state of bihar AIR 1961 SC 1698– Tests for determining whether an act amounts to a mere preparation or an attempt to commit an offence:
- The proximity rule: state of maharashtra v. mohanmmad yakub (1980) 3 scc 57
- Locus Poenitentiae test (time for repentance): Malkiat singh v state of punjab AIR 1970 SC 713
- Impossibility Test
- Social Danger test
- Equivocality Test
- Proximity rule- An act in order to be designated as an attempt, must be sufficiently near to the accomplishment of the substantive offence punishable.
- Locus Poenitentiae Test (Time for Repentance)- An Act will amount to mere preparation if a man on his own accord gives it up, before the criminal act is carried out.
- Impossibility Test- An act which is impossible to commit cannot be attempted and so is not culpable.
- Social Danger Test- The seriousness of the crime and the apprehension of the social danger involved is taken into account.
- Equivocality Test- To constitute an attempt, the act must be such as to clearly and
unequivocally indicate the intention to commit the offence.
Relevant case laws
- Abhayanand Mishra vs State of Bihar, AIR 1961 SC 1698.
In this case, the accused applied to Patna University for M.A. examination on the basis that he has obtained a B.A. degree. Relying on the accused, the University issued admit cards to the accused. After enquiry the University found that the accused was not a graduate and he had been debarred from taking university examination due to corrupt practices. He was charged with attempting to commit cheating. The court upholding the conviction stated that when a person makes preparation with intention and does an act towards its commission then it is an attempt to commit offence.
- Malkait Singh vs State of Punjab (AIR 1970 SC 713)
Here the appellant was arrested by Punjab Police 32 Miles before the Punjab –Delhi border for exporting rice to Delhi without license. The court held that it was mere preparation. It was quite possible that the appellant might have changed their mind at any place before reaching the border and would not have proceeded further in their journey.
- State of Maharashtra vs Mohd. Yakub (AIR 1980 sc 1111)
On receiving some secret information that silver would be transported in a Jeep and Truck from Bombay, police staff proceeded in two vehicles to keep a watch. The officers followed the truck and the jeep which, after travelling some distance, both vehicles took halt near a bridge and the accused removed some small and heavy bundles from the truck and placed them aside on the ground. The Customs Officers rushed to the spot and arrested and searched the persons present there. At the same time, the sound of the engine of a mechanised sea-craft from the side of the creek was heard by the officers. The officers surrounded the vehicles and found four silver ingots near the footpath leading to the creek. Accused were questioned about their identity, and they falsely gave their name and address. From the personal search, a pistol, knife and some currency notes were found. Fifteen silver ingots concealed in a shawl were found in the rear side of the jeep and twenty-four silver ingots were found lying under saw-dust bags in the truck.
- Asagarali Pradhania v Emperor, [(1933) ILR 61 Cal.]
The accused had given the complainant certain substances to procure a miscarriage. The miscarriage could not be accomplished because the substances were harmless. The court held that the accused was not liable for the offence of attempting to cause a woman to have a miscarriage under s 312 read with s 511 of the Penal Code.
Here the accused had not done everything that was required for the completion of the offence. For that condition to be satisfied, the accused would have had to give the woman a substance which would have procured the miscarriage.
So the Court acquitted the accused.
- Emperor vs Vasudeo Balwant Gogte (1932) 34 Bom LR 571.
In this case, the accused fired two shots on the victim but due to defect in the ammunition or some other reason the victim escaped from the attack. Here the court held that S. 307 IPC means that the accused must do an act with such a guilty intention and knowledge and in such circumstances that but for some intervening fact that act would have amounted to murder in the normal course of events.
On March 3, 2005, a journalist Ms. Ruth Lumley, while travelling on a train to Brighton, saw several graffiti with explicit messages seeking girls of the age 8 and 13 years for sex with telephone number offering payments on the toilet door.
The journalist contacted the police, who began an undercover operation using an officer known as “Amy”. An exchange of text messages followed between the accused and Amy, in which Amy stated that she was 12 years of age and to his enquiry as to whether she was a virgin or not, she replied affirmatively. The accused then invited Amy to meet him at a particular place and the accused was arrested.
He was charged with attempt to intentionally cause or incite a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity involving penetration.
The accused argues that he could not have had the requisite intention to commit the alleged attempt because it was a trap (that Amy is actually an adult) and he did not intend to incite any actual person under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity.
Applying the tests, do you think the accused is guilty of attempt?
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