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Criminal Attempt



An attempt to commit a crime is an act which could constitute the offence if it were not interrupted. Once a criminal act reaches the stage of attempt the liability starts, as attempt takes the person closer to a successful commission of an offence. 


  1. Unsuccessful act

  2. Interrupted so couldn’t happen

  3. More than mere preparation 


  1. General Attempt

  2. Specific Attempt: 

  • Section 307: Offence of attempt murder.

  • Section 308: offence of attempt culpable homicide.

  • Section 309: offence of attempted suicide.

  • Section 393: offence of attempted robbery. 

  1. Attempt along with abetment or commission as offence. 


  1. Impossibility: legal impossibility arises when a defendant completes all of his intended acts, but the sum of his acts does not constitute a crime. It was laid in the case Queen Vs. Collins 1884, where it was held that a pickpocket was not guilty of attempt even when he put his hand into the pocket of someone with an intention to steal but did not find anything. 

  2. Interruption/but for interruption: if the action proves that the person would have gone through with the plan if not for the interruption, then it is an attempt. That means if a person has not been interrupted, he would have committed the crime, he is guilty of attempt even though the past step of the crime has not been performed. 

        Exception: voluntary backing out = Doctrine of Locus Penitentiae/Abandonment – Malkiat Singh Vs. State of Punjab AIR 1970 SC 713.

  1. Last step test: as per this test, anything short of last step is preparation and not attempt. However, if proved the culprit reached at last step then it is an attempt. This is because as long as there is a step remaining for completion of the crime, the person can abandon it. This is also known as Proximity Rule. 

       Example: Abhavanand Mishra Vs. State of Bihar AIR 1961 SC 1698.

  1. Unequivocality test: it is similar to Res ipsa Loquitor that has been developed recently by American Judiciary. If a person does something that shows his commitment to follow through and commit the crime then it is an attempt. So, attempt is done when the offender takes deliberate and overt steps that show an unequivocal intention to commit the offence even if the step is not the penultimate one. It is not followed in India. 

  2. Social Danger Test: in this test the accused conduct is not examined only partially but the consequences of the circumstances and the fullness of the facts are taken into consideration. For example, A administers some pills to a pregnant woman in order to procure abortion. However, since the pills are innocuous, they do not produce the result. In spite of this A would be held liable for an attempt from the view point of the social danger test, as his act would cause an alarm to society causing social consequences. It is also not applied in India 


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