Generally, negligence means carelessness or failure to exercise due care where it is essential.

Criminal negligence is a far more serious form of negligence that usually involves the death of another individual.  The defendant has failed to perceive the serious nature of his or her actions and instead precipitated a gross violation of the standard of care expected on an individual. Section 304A of the IPC deals with criminal negligence.

Example: A homoeopathy practitioner while treating a patient recommends two drops of dhatura (poisonous plant) without realizing it effect. The patient dies of poisoning. The practitioner is liable for criminal negligence.

Essential Elements of criminal negligence:

  • The act has resulted in the death of the victim
  • The act of the accused does not fall within the definition of culpable homicide
  • (i) The act was done with the knowledge that it is dangerous. The accused may or may not have the intention to cause that injury:
  • (ii) The act was done with recklessness or total indifference as to the consequences of that act.
  • The rash or negligent act must be the proximate cause of the death of the victim.
  • It is essential to show that the accused failed to exercise the reasonable and proper care to prevent the injury occurred. The neglect of the accused must be gross and culpable.

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Types of Criminal Negligence:

A. Criminally negligent homicide:

Criminally negligent homicide is willful and wanton conduct that causes the death of another.

B. The neglect of a child:

Negligent endangerment of a child is the failure to provide for the needs of the child and dereliction of one’s duties as a parent or caretaker.  The implication in a child neglect case is that the parents lacked the mental, physical and emotional capacity to care for the child, rather than the willful abuse of the child.

Under what circumstances could a person avoid legal liability:

If it is found that the defendant took all adequate precautions in the accidental death of another, then that person may avoid liability.  For instance, if a skydiver’s parachute fails to deploy, causing the death of that individual, the organizer may avoid liability if it is proven, beyond reasonable doubt that, that the parachutes were inspected, adequate lessons were given and the parachute was aware of the inherent risks of this activity.  Criminal responsibility could stem from a lack of proper preparation or safety precautions.

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