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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

CHAPTER

XLJNFANTICIDE

Definition.—Infanticide means the unlawful destruction of a newly-born
child, and is Regarded as murder in law. It is punishable under section 302,
I.P.C., by death or transportation for life and also fine. In a case in which
one Sunderbai, a Hindu widow, aged 22 years, was accused of infanticide,
the Honourable Judges of the Bombay High Court pointed out that the law
should be changed so that infanticide be regarded distinct from ordinary
murder, especially when an infant was killed by the mother, while she was
still under the effect of child birth so that the balance of her mind was
disturbed. It should be brought on a line with other civilized countries,
such as England, France, Germany and Italy. The punishment provided
should be imprisonment for a few years.1 By the Infanticide Act of
England, 1922? a woman, who kills her newly-born child under certain cir-
cumstances, is .guilty of the felony of infanticide and is punishable as for
manslaughter. The Act used the term " newly-born child", but did not
definitely lay down the period upto which the child might be legally
considered "newly-born". To rectify this defect Parliament repealed this
Act in 1938, and passed another Infanticide Act, the chief provisions of which
are as follows : —

1.    A child shall be deemed to have recently been born if it had been
born within twelve months before its death.

2.   Where a woman by any wilful act or omission causes the death of
her child, being a child under the age of twelve months, but at the time of
the act or omission the balance 0f her mind was disturbed by reason of her
not having fully recovered from the effect of giving birth to the child, or
by reason of the effect of lactation consequent on the birth of the child, then,
notwithstanding that the circumstances were such that but for this Act the
offence would have amounted to murder, she shall be guilty of felony, to
wit, of infanticide, and may for such offence be dealt with and punished as
if she had been guilty of the offence of manslaughter of the child*

This Act is intended to apply only to the mother. Any other person
assisting in the destruction of a child born alive may be charged with
murder.

TheJ&gal bearing on infanticide is the same as in culpable homicide,
exce^n^tlthe law presumes that a child was born dead. Hence in a trial
for infanticide the prosecution is required to prove that the child was born
alive, and that it died from criminal violence inflicted after its birth.

Owing to certain social customs prevailing in the different communities
of India, infanticide, especially of female children, was formerly very com-
mon but, wth the spread of educaScm and restrictive action by Govermnent,
it is now rare except in cases <rf Skf^timate children born of widows who
are not allowed to re-marry.

JJjiyarime of ikfanticide is gercraHy committed at the time of, or within
a few minutes or hours after, the birfh of the child, Jynsgci cases the
medical officer is required to examine the woman—the sSfeged mother
the child—and the dead body of the child. JEksJaas^to examine the
to determine if she has been recently delivered of a full-term child ; 1|
reference to the child he is called upon to solve the following
, raised by the police, when the body is sent for post-mortem

1.   See also Lahore High Court Cr. Apj>. No. 719 of 1937, Mt
Sep. :E938» p. 718.