PUNISHMENT FOR CANNIBALISM
Doctrine of Necessity – When to be Invoked
Question asked by a first year law student-
A whole crew is on a boat traveling somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean and accidentally a disaster took place. All the crew members died and only 4 members were left alive. Those 4 named were A, B, C and D. Also out of those 4 members one is of unconscious mind.
There is nothing to eat, so they said that we will do the act of cannibalism but while saying the word cannibalism D was in unconscious mind.
Cannibalism is the act of consuming another individual of the same species as food. In this question human eating human.
So they tossed a coin after taking consent of each other. They included even the unconscious D too. They decided that whose name will come first he has to die and then they tossed the coin. When the name came it was of D, but at that time D comes in conscious mind and he said that I withdraw. So A and B decided to kill D and they instigate C also, but C refused and so they (A & B) kill D.
But when they start sharing D’s body as a meal C also joined them.
Should they all be punished for murder?
Or even some of them will be punished or not?
Answer by WritingLaw-
Wow. This is a great question. I am mind blown by it. All will be punished. That is for sure. I will consult this question with one of my other friend and reply in evening or tomorrow. Is that okay? It is an excellent question by the way.
Replied next day-
As far as liability of A, B, C and D is concerned; All are liable for murder of D.
Here when the conspiracy was committed, at that time D was of unsound mind and hence his liability ceases.
A, B and C, all three are liable for murder as well as of criminal conspiracy under section 120B. They can not take defence under section 81 as doctrine of necessity says smaller harm can be caused to avoid big harm. But this is not so in this case. It is purely a murder.
Each individual life was equivalent to that of another. You may refer the case of R vs Dudley and Stephens, 1884 in which it was clearly said that necessity is not a defense to a charge of murder.
The doctrine of necessity must be carefully dealt else necessity would open the door to many excuses. It was for this reason it was not admitted in the case of Dudley and Stephens. They were held guilty of murder. Similarly if a man who is starving enters a house and takes food in order to keep himself alive, the law does not admit the defence of necessity. It holds him guilty of theft.
The reason is because, if hunger were once allowed to be an excuse for stealing, it would open a way through which all kinds of disorder can be claimed to be allowed. So the courts must for the sake of law and order take a firm stand.
Hope it helps.