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Report No. 35

B. Homicide in Hindu Law

Sahasa or deliberate and aggressive violenc.- Difference between 'Sahasa' and 'Steya'.- On the law of homicide in the Hindu period, the following observations of Dr. P.N. Sen would be of interest1:

"Sahasa.-The word "Sahasa" is a generic term comprising various offences having the common characteristic of being attended with or accompanied by the use of force. In its broader sense, therefore, it included certain offences which would also come under other descriptions of offences, but in its restricted sense it was used to denote certain specific offences such as mischief, robbery, murder, etc., characterised by deliberate and aggressive violence.

Understood in this way, it differentiates itself from the theft and kindred offences (steya) by the element of force which enters into its composition; the spring of action from which such an offence proceeds is passion or raged whereas in cases of theft and other kinds of offences the spring of action is avarice; to put it shortly offences of the former kind are violent and aggressive in their character; while offences of the latter kind are generally secretive in their nature.

Hence, the Mitakshara points out that although a Sahasa (or violent offence) involves either theft, or verbal abuse, or personal violence, or outrage of the modesty of a woman as an element in its constitution yet it differentiates itself from them by the adjunct of aggressive violence which gives it a peculiar shape, and this differentiation marks out that the offence should be visited with a heavier punishment. There are three different degrees of this kind of offence, of the first degree, intermediate and grave, and different degrees of punishment were prescribed as appropriate to them.

It was also laid down that if several persons combined in striking another, they should be visited with double the ordinary punishment, and furthermore he who struck at the vital part was to receive the severest sentence. In a case of Sahasa in the narrower sense, as distinguished from dandparushia and sthreesangrahan difference in caste did not lead to any difference in sentence, but this must be understood as subject to the general rule, that a Brahmin could never be capitally punished, although in a proper case he might be chained or imprisoned, or banished from the country branded with marks of disgrace"

1. Dr. P.N. Sen, Hindu Jurisprudence, (TLL 1909) 1918 Edn., pp2550-351.

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