Difference between “murder” which is not an accident and “murder” which is an accident
In Rita Devi v. New India Assurance Company Ltd., reported in AIR 2000 SC 1930
The question, is can murder be an accident in any given case ?
There is no doubt that murder, as it is understood, in the common parlance is a felonious act where death is caused with intent and the perpetrators of that act normally have a motive against the victim for such killing. But there are also instances where murder can be by accident on a given set of facts . The difference between a murder which is not an accident and a murder which is an accident, depends on the proximity of the cause of such murder. In our opinion, if the dominent intention of the Act of felony is to kill any particular person then such killing is not an accidental murder but is a murder simplicitor, while if the cause of murder or act of murder was originally not intended and the same was caused in furtherance of any other felonious act then such murder is an accidental murder.
In Challis vs. London and South Western Railway Company (1905 2 Kings Bench 154), the Court of Appeal held where an engine driver while driving a train under a bridge was killed by a stone willfully dropped on the train by a boy from the bridge, that his injuries were caused by an accident. In the said case, the Court rejecting an argument that the said incident cannot be treated as an accident held:
The accident which befell the deceased was, as it appears to me, one which was incidental to his employment as an engine driver; in other words it arose out of his employment. The argument for the respondents really involves the reading into the Act of a proviso to the effect that an accident shall not be deemed to be within the Act, if it arose from the mischievous act of a person not in the service of the employer. I see no reason to suppose that the Legislature intended so to limit the operation of the Act. The result is the same to the engine driver, from whatever cause the accident happened; and it does not appear to me to be any answer to the claim for indemnification under the Act to say that the accident was caused by some person who acted mischievously.
In the case of Nisbet vs. Rayne & Burn (1910) 1 KB 689, where a cashier, while travelling in a railway to a colliery with a large sum of money for the payment of his employers workmen, was robbed and murdered. The Court of Appeal held: That the murder was an accident from the standpoint of the person who suffered from it and that it arose out of an employment which involved more than the ordinary risk, and consequently that the widow was entitled to compensation under the Workmens Compensation Act 1906. In this case the Court followed its earlier judgment in the case of Challis (supra). In the case of Nisbet, the Court also observed that it is contended by the employer that this was not an accident within the meaning of the Act, because it was an intentional felonious act which caused the death, and that the word accident negatives the idea of intention. In my opinion, this contention ought not to prevail. I think it was an accident from the point of view of Nisbet, and that it makes no difference whether the pistol shot was deliberately fired at Nisbet or whether it was intended for somebody else and not for Nisbet.