Section 318 is intended to prevent infanticide. It is directed against concealment of birth of a child by secretly disposing of its body. Section 318 requires: 1) Secret burying or otherwise disposing of the dead body of a child; 2) It is immaterial whether such child dies before or after or during its birth; 3) Intention to conceal the birth of such child by such secret burying or disposal.
The offence becomes complete when the birth i.e., the delivery of a child, dead or living is concealed by any means. The punishment is imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or with both. As per Section 318, the secret burying or disposal should be of the ‘dead body of the child’. This means that the child should not be in the stage of a mere embryo or foetus, but should have reached such a stage of development and maturity that it may be born alive and be capable of living.
The word ‘body’ indicates that the foetus must have developed in the mother’s womb into a human shape. Further, the child should be dead. If the child were alive at the time of secret disposal, then no offence under Section 318 is made out. The secret disposal of the body of the child should be with the intention to conceal or attempt to conceal the birth of the child. When the birth of the child took place in a hospital and was attended to by nurses and for at least 24 hours, the birth of the child was known to a number of persons; and it was held that there was no concealment of birth. If the child concealed is fully developed and born alive or dead only Section 318 applies.
If it is in foetus stage only, then Section 318 does not apply, but Sections 312 and 511 shall apply. The offence under Section 318 is cognizable, bailable, non- compoundable and triable by Magistrate of first class. For all the offences against unborn children, the causes are the social pressures and value based judgments made on unwed mothers. The abandoning of children or infanticide is mostly only in respect of girl children because of the social pressures where birth of a girl child is considered a burden, and both the mother and child are castigated. Unless, the social attitude changes such offences against unborn children continue forever.