Skip to main content
THE ABANDONING OF INFANTS 361
At 8 ajn. on the 13th January 1934, a newly -born male infant was found lying,
exposed on a grave in Shahrnina, Lucknow. The infant was at once removed to the
Queen Mary's Hospital, where he was found very cold with subnormal temperature and
died at about 3 a.m. At the post-mortem examination by me at 1 p.m. on the 15th
January 1934, the body was found to be that of a full-term male infant. There were
no marks of external injury on the body. The brain, lungs and other viscera were
5^jQjnission to supply the child with proper food according to its age.
The starvation of a child constitutes slow death. The stomach and intestines
must be examined for the presence of food. If the child is immature it is
very difficult for the medical practitioner to say whether the death was due
to natural causes owing to feebleness, or was due to starvation. The case
depends chiefly upon circumstantial evidence.
THE ABANDONING OF INFANTS
When a newly-born infant after it is born alive, is exposed in any place
with "the intention of abandoning it and death does not supervene, the parent
or person responsible for the care of such infant is guilty under section 317,
LP.C.j and may be punished with imprisonment of either description, for a
term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with^both (see
Appendix IV). The exposure need not be such as would put thechild of
tender years (under twelve years according to the section) in the immediate
danger of health or life. The Madras High Court has held that it was not
necessary that the exposure and abandonment must be under such circum-
stances as to endanger the life or the health of the child. The only
ingredient required to complete the offence is an intention of wholly
abandoning the child.21 The offender may be tried for murder or culpable
homicide, as the case may be, if the infant dies in consequence of the
exposure (see Explanation to section 317, I.P.C., Appendix IV) .
e where infanticide is not proved, the mother is usually charged
under section 318, I.P.C., with a lesser offence of concealment of birth by
secretly burying or otherwise disposing of the dead body of her newly-born
child, and may be punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment for a
period which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both (see
Appendix IV). j£jiQfi& not matter whether the child died before or after
or during its birth, but there must be a secret disposal of the body. Leaving
the dead body of a child in the compound of a house or in a public place
where it can be easily seen does not constitute an offence under this section.
A woman, being pregnant with an illegitimate child, went to the village jungle for
purpose of nature and there, in the presence of another woman, gave birth to a child,
which died immediately. The dead body was left on the spot where the birth took place
and was there discovered two days afterwards. It was held that the mere leaving of
the body where the birth took place did not constitute an offence under this section
as it did not amount to a secret disposal.22 But where a woman threw a child down
a privy,23 and where a woman placed a living child in a place of concealment, and on
subsequently revisiting that place found the child dead and left it there,24 it was held
that this offence was committed.
For the purpose of this section a foetus is considered a child, if it has
attained so 4nuch maturity as to be capable of niaintaining a separate
21. Boya Sankulamma, (1890) 1 Weir 331 ; Ratanlal and Thakore, Law of
Ed. XVU, p. 798.
22. M. Saraswaii, (1905) LN.L.R. 89 ; Ratanlal and Thakore, Law of Crimes, Ed.
p. 801 ; Cal. H. Court Cr. Appeal No. 801 of 1934, K. E. v. Sailabaladasi ; 36 Cr. Law Jour.,
1935, p. 1460.
23. Elizabeth Cornwall, (1817) Russ. and Ry. 336; Ratanlal and Thakore, Law <yf
Crimes, Ed. XVH, p. 801.
24. Hughes, (1850) 4 Cox 447 ; Ibid., p. 801.