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transfer of malice

Case Laws

R v Mitchell 1983

In this case, the accused tried to jump the queue at a post office. An elderly man objected to this behaviour. The accused in retaliation, not only pushed the elderly man but hit him as well.


The elderly man falls on the people who were standing behind him in the queue. There was one old lady in the queue who also fell down and broke her leg. Later she died because of that broken leg. It was held that the accused was guilty of manslaughter.


In this case, even though the accused did had any intention to hit the old lady, but due to his intention to hit the man, he was prosecuted by applying the principle of transferred malice.


R v Latimer (1886) 17 QBD 359

In this case, the defendant was in an argument with another in a pub. The arguments between the two increased rapidly. The defendant took off his belt with an intention to hit the man but he missed. The person he was trying to hit only got a bit injured. The smash with the belt got diverted in another way and it hit an innocent woman who was standing by the side of the man. She got hit in her face and was severely injured.


It was held by the court that the defendant will be liable for the injuries inflicted upon the woman despite the fact that he did not intend to cause injury to her.


Here, the principle of transfer of malice was applied. The Mens Rea he had (the intention to hit the man) towards the man was transferred on the woman.


R v. Saunders (1573) 2 Plowd 473

In this case, the defendant persuaded his wife to eat a poisoned apple laced with arsenic (a chemical).


It was with an intention to kill her so that he can be free and marry another woman after her death. However, his wife gave the poisoned apple to their daughter. The daughter ate the apple and as a result, she died. After applying the ‘Doctrine of Transferred Malice’, the defendant was charged with murder. The intention to kill his wife got transferred to his daughter and due to that, she died.


Rajbir Singh vs State Of U.P. & Anr on 8 March 2006

In this case, the appellant claimed that the neighbour threw some bricks on the compound of his brother’s house. On account of this, a verbal fight took place between his father and the accused but the matter was somehow settled by the local people. The next day accused with his two relatives came with guns. They came near the shop of the complainant where his father was standing. There, the accused persuade or encouraged his relatives to kill him. The accused started firing at the father of the complainant who then received injuries and fell down.


A girl came to that shop to purchase some articles from that shop and suffered injuries and fell down. Both the injured persons died on the way to the hospital.


The accused in his argument said that the girl died by accident and there was no intention on their part to kill her. She was passing by from that place and as a result, suffered injuries and died.


The Supreme Court set aside the order of the High Court and held the accused guilty.


R v Pembleton (1874) LR 2CCR 119

In this case, the defendant threw some stones into a crowd with an intention to hit someone with it. However, the stone somehow missed the crowd and instead hit the window. It was argued that by the ‘Doctrine of Transferred Malice’, his intention of hitting in the crowd was transferred and thus he was guilty of hitting the window.


The issue was raised that whether the defendant was guilty of the criminal damage and whether the ‘Doctrine of Transfer Malice’ can be used in these cases where the intention is different and the result is different.


It was held that the defendant was not guilty of criminal damage and was also held that the ‘Doctrine of Transfer Malice’ cannot be applied here as the crime which actually happened did not have the same physical act (actus reus) as the crime which the defendant intended to do so.


Emperor vs Mushnooru Suryanarayana Murthy on 2 January 1912

In this case, the accused, Mushnooru Suryanarayan Murthy had an intention to kill Appala Narasimhulu. This was so that he could obtain the sums insured on her. Without the knowledge of Appala, he gave some sweet dish which contained a poison of arsenic and mercury. Appala Narasimhulu ate a small portion and threw the rest away. Rajalakshmi, aged 8 was the accused niece. He ate some sweet dish and also gave some to the other little child. This was done without the knowledge of the accused. The children died. But Appala recovered from the severe effects of it.


It was held by the court that the accused will be held guilty under the attempt to commit the murder of Appala and also under Section 301 of the Indian Penal Code. this is for the death of the child.


Even though he did not intend to kill them but according to the doctrine of the transfer of malice, he will be held responsible for the punishment.



016. transfer of malice
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