The points which require proof under the above section are (1) that the accused attempted to commit some offence punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment; or that he attempted to cause such an offence to be committed; and (2) that in attempting to do the above act he did some act towards the commission of the offence.
(a) A makes an attempt to steal some jewels by breaking open a box, and finds after so opening the box that there is no jewel in it. He had done an act towards the commission of theft, and, therefore, is guilty under the above section, (b) A makes an attempt to pick the pocket to Z by thrusting his hand into Z’s pocket. A fails in the attempt in consequence of Z’s having nothing in his pocket. A is guilty of an offence under the above section.
(a) Different stages of the commission of an offence:
There are three stages in the commission of a crime, viz., (1) intention to commit a crime; (2) preparation to commit it; and (3) attempt to commit it. The crime is complete if the third stage, viz., attempt is successful.
The first stage consists of the evil intention or design to commit the crime. Mere intention or evil design not followed by an act does not constitute an offence. The will cannot be taken for the deed, unless there has been some external act showing the progress made towards maturing the crime. The judges cannot look into the breast of criminals.
The second stage is that of preparation to commit a crime. It is devising or arranging the means or measures necessary for commission of an offence. The provisions of the Code do not generally declare the state of preparation as an offence.
Mere preparation to commit an offence is punishable only in three cases, viz., (1) preparation to wage war against the Government of India (S. 122); (2) preparation to commit depredation on territories of any power at peace with the Government of India (S. 126); and (3) preparation to commit dacoity (S. 399).
The third stage is the attempt, which is the direct movement towards the commission after the preparations are made. An attempt to commit a crime is something more than mere preparation. It consists of intent to commit a crime, combined with the doing of some act adapted to, but, falling short of, its actual commission. It is an act which, if not prevented, results in the consummation of the act attempted. To constitute the offence of attempt there must be an ac’ done with the intention of committing an offence, and it must be don
in attempting the commission of the offence. The two illustrations above, viz., a making an attempt to steal some jewels by breaking open a box, but finding one after so opening it and A making an attempt to pick the pocket of Z by thrusting his hand into Z’s empty pocket are apt illustrations of the offence of attempt.
In each we find an act done with the intent of committing an offence although that was frustrated by circumstances independent of his own volition. An attempt is, therefore, punishable under section 511, I.P.C. even when it is not followed by the intended consequences, for if the attempt succeeds the crime itself is committed.
(b) Preparation and attempt to commit an offence:
Preparation widely differs from attempts. While preparation consists in devising or arranging the means or measures for the commission of the offence, attempt is the direct movement towards the commission after preparations is made. Attempt is, therefore, preparation plus something more.
Attempt begins where preparation ends. Attempt excludes the possibility of a change in the intention of the accused and the possibility that it is for an innocent purpose. The relating proximity between the act done and the evil consequence contemplated largely determines the distinction between an attempt and a preparation. A preparation is generally not punished while every attempt is, the reason being that a preparation apart from its motives would generally be a harmless act.
Thus A intends to kill B and with this motive he purchases poison in order to mix it in B’s food. Up to this stage A’s act is mere preparation, which is not punishable. But if A actually mixes poison in B’s food and puts it before B among his dishes, he has committed an attempt.
It is impossible to show in most cases that the preparation was directed to a wrongful end or was done with an evil motive or intention. An attempt is, however, made punishable because every attempt, although it fails to achieve the result, must create alarms which of itself are an injury and the moral guilt of the offender is the same as if he had succeeded.
There are, however, exceptional cases where the contemplated offence may be so grave that it must be nipped in the bud at its earliest stage. Instances of the type have been cited in (a) above viz., preparation to wage war against the Government of India, preparation to commit depredation on territories of any power at peace with the Government of India and preparation lo commit dacoity.
There are also a few cases where preparation is made punishable because they cannot by the very nature of things be meant for innocent purposes, e.g., provision against making, mending, buying or selling or being in possession of instruments for counterfeiting coins, or the making of dies or other instruments used in the manufacture of coin.
Then there are also a few acts which, although in reality are mere preparation, have been regarded as substantive offence, viz., possession of counterfeit coins, false weights and forged documents.