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Introduction: ........................................................................................... 3 Private defense: ....................................................................................... 3 Private defence: object ............................................................................. 7 Defence of body and property: scope .................................................... 10 Right of private defence to cause death ................................................ 20 Right of private defence short of death ................................................. 27
Generally speaking, defences allow the accused to avoid criminal responsibility. Defences arise in different ways. In one way, the defendant may defend himself by proving that he did not commit the crime. For example, take the case of an offender who takes the plea of alibi. By raising this what he says is that he has not committed the crime. In yet another instance, a material element or circumstance may not be available. In such a case failure to establish the circumstance provides the defence. There are two types of defences: justificatory, and excusatory. In the former the accused admits responsibility for crimes but argues that, under the circumstances, what he did was right. In excusatory defences, the accused admits that what he did was wrong but pleads, that, under the circumstances, he was not responsible for what he did. Ordinarily, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. However, in the case of affirmative defences where the accused asks for concessional consideration including self-defence, necessity, insanity, alcoholic insanity or drunkenness, duress etc. the burden falls on the accused. It has to be noted that if the prosecution comes across evidence capable of proving any of these defences, fairness demands that the prosecution makes it available to court for giving the benefit to the accused. Evidence that does not lead to a perfect defence may result in conviction for a lesser offence as in the case of the defence of sudden and grave provocation; the murder charge is reduced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Self-help is the first rule of criminal law. The right of private defence is absolutely necessary for the protection of one's life, liberty and property. No doubt, it is the primary duty of the State to protect life and the property of the individuals, but no State, no matter how large its resources might be, can depute a policeman to watch the activities of each and every individual and protect them against the mischievous acts of criminals. There may be situations wherein help from the State authorities cannot be obtained in order to repel an unlawful aggression, either because there is no time to ask for such help, or for any other reason. To meet such exigencies the law has given the right of private defence of body and property to every individual. 1
Bentham's Principles of Penal Law, p. 269; Bentham said, The vigilance of magistrates can never make up for the vigilance of each individual on his own behalf. The fear of the law can never restrain bad men as the fear of some total of individual resistance. Take away this right and you can become in so doing the accomplice, of all bad men. See Gour Hari Singh, Penal Law of India, (11th Edn., Vol. I, 2000), pp. 797-825.
In the state of nature it was the survival of the fittest, the principle of selfpreservation guiding much of human behaviour. A man could kill another in self-defence, this being an inherent natural right. This was almost an unrestricted right that the „Law of Nature‟ gave to each individual. The right of self-defence is one which has come down from the ancient lawgivers. Manu enjoined to resort to arms in self-defence2 and the root of this concept may be found even in Anglo-American jurisprudence.3 It is thus an indefeasible right which may be altered, but can never be abrogated. Nature prompts a man who is struck to resist, and he is justified in using such amount of force which will prevent a repetition. Also, the right of private-defence bases itself on the principle that under certain circumstances the conduct of a person is justified although otherwise criminal, and homicide committed in such nature has been termed as “excusable homicide”, the slayer having performed a task which the state would have normally carried out. 4 Thus what the law requires the law permits. This is the reason why the right has been carefully restricted and also sacredly protected. Today, the liberal democratic state still recognises this inalienable right of an individual to protect himself and his property in the face of danger. 5 This departs from the monopoly over violence which the state has retained in the sense that under every other circumstance, it is the state alone that is justified in using force, or punishing the wrongdoer. 6 The law relating to self-defence is thus a mere extension of the principle of necessity, the test for a reasonable exercise of self-defence being a clear and present danger, the imminence of harm to either person or property, and the consequent necessity to protect the self or one‟s property. This is in consonance with a basic aim of criminal law which is to safeguard conduct that is without fault from condemnation as criminal.7 The terms “Private Defense” and “Self Defense” are synonymous to each other. In fact they carry one and the same meaning. Latin words, “Se
Manu, Ch. VIII, Verses 348-9. Jack Lowery, “A Statutory study of self-defence and defence of others as an excuse for homicide”, University of Florida Law Review, Vol. V, (1952), p. 58. 4 J.W. Cecil Turner, Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law (19th ed.) (London, 1980), p. 141. 5 However, in modern society, this right of self-defence or private-defence is not of an absolute or unqualified nature. Although every developed society recognises the right of private defence, it also recognises the need to limit and control its use, qualifying its utilisation with the need for it to be bona fide and reasonable in relation to the danger faced. 6 This is in the furtherance of the promotion of social justice in the welfare state where the responsibility is divested in the individual to safeguard the social process by which social justice is likely to be attained. This is exemplified in the example that every country, however resourceful, cannot afford to depute a policeman to dog the steps of every doer of a criminal act or to be present at every place wherever the crime is committed c.f. Shamsul Huda, Principles of the Law of Crimes (Lucknow, 1982), p. 382. 7 Paul Robinson, “A Functional Analysis of Criminal Law”, Northwestern Unversity Law Review, Vol. 88, No. 3, (1994), p. 857 at 858.
Defendendo” stand for the same. In the olden days, when the civilization had not dawned, only one law had its effective play and that w as “might is right”. With the advancement of society the State took up the task of protecting the person and property of its subject, but experiences were that the State was exclusively - unable to guarantee such protection and thereby its subject were privileged to protect their person and property by causing injuries, simple and grievous, within their reasonable restrictions, to them who intended to pose such danger to person and property. Self-defence involves using or threatening to use force against another in order to repel an unprovoked attack. It rests on the notion that the persons who are attacked without provocation may be forced to do for themselves what the police cannot at the moment, do for them. The law permits citizens to use force only for protection when necessary against imminent attack. The law in making this allowance in fact accepts that it is not only impossible for it to help the citizen at the time of attack but also recognises the instinct of human beings to protect themselves from attack even by attacking the aggressor. If the attack exceeds the limit, i.e., is disproportionate to the danger the accused is to be punished though leniently. Sections 96 to 106 of the Indian Penal Code deal with the right of private defence of person and property. The provisions contained in these sections give authority to a man to use necessary force against an assailant or wrong-doer for the purpose of protecting one's own body and property as also another's body and property when immediate aid from the state machinery is not readily available and in so doing he is not answerable in law for his deeds. The authors of the Code have very nicely explained the object of the provisions relating to private defence, in the following words: “It may be thought that we have allowed too great a latitude to the exercise of this right; and we are ourselves of the opinion that if we had been framing laws for a bold and high-spirited people, accustomed to take the law into their own hand, and to go beyond the line of moderation in repelling injury, it would have been fit to provide additional restrictions. In this country the danger is on the other side; the people are too little disposed to help themselves; the patience with which they submit to the cruel depredations of gang robbers, and to trespass and mischief committeed in the most outrageous manner by bands of ruffians, is one of the most... discouraging symptoms which the state of society in India present to us. Under these circumstances we are desirous rather —rouse and encourage a manly spirit among the people than to multiply restrictions on the exercise of the right of self-defence.”8
This right is based on two principles,
Draft Penal Code, Note p. 110.
(I), It is available against the aggressor only, and (II), the right is available only when the defender entertains reasonable apprehension. There are three tests for ascertaining reasonable apprehension; they are objective, subjective and expanded objective. While objective test emphasises as to how in a similar circumstance an ordinary, reasonable, standard and average person will response, the subjective test examines the mental state based on individualistic attitude. However, expanded objective test, being the combination of aforesaid, two tests, bases its inquiry on an individual as a person and inquiry is furthered to determine whether or not the individual acted as a reasonable person. Right of private defence serves social purpose and the right should be liberally construed. Such a right will not only be a restraining influence on bad characters but will also encourage manly spirit in a law abiding citizen. It is a very valuable right. It has a social purpose. It should not be narrowly construed. It necessitates the occasions for the exercise of this right as an effective means of protection against wrong doers. The law of private defence is based on two cardinal principles, viz., 1. Everyone has the right to defend his own body and property, as also another's body and property. 2. The right cannot be applied as a pretence for justifying aggression for causing harm to another person, nor for causing more harm than is necessary to inflict for the purpose of defence. 9 In judging whether the accused has exceeded his right to private defence or not, the court has to take into account the weapons used particularly in a case of firing and the number of shots that were fired. In such a case where it was not possible to disengage the truth from falsehood and to sift the grain from the chaff, because the truth and falsehood were so inextricably inter twined together, the prosecution was found to have failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt and it was held that the accused could not be said to have exceeded his right of private defence. For raising the defence of right of private defence in a case it must be the case that it had been exercised to defend oneself from a crime. In other words, it is stated that the right of private defence is available only against an apprehension of the danger arising from the threat of a commission of a crime. Against this it is argued that it is not necessary that there should be the threat of a commission of a crime. It need only be an apprehension of danger. The right of private defence is available not only for protecting one's body, but also for protecting one's property or others' bodies and property. This position is meaningful inasmuch as it should be the duty of people to resort to mutual defence against an attack by criminals. Page
Gour Hari Singh, Penal Law of India, (11th Edn., Vol. II, 2000), p. 797.
The right is essentially of defence not of retribution. As pointed out by Russell in Law of Crimes. ...A man is justified in resisting by force anyone who manifestly intends and endeavours by violence or surprise to commit a known felony against either his person, habitation or property. In these cases he is not obliged to retreat, and may not merely resist the attack where he stands but may indeed pursue his adversary until the danger is ended and if in a conflict between them he happens to kill his attacker, such killing is justifiable.' SEC. 96. Things done in private defence.—Nothing is an offence which is done in the exercise of the right of private defence. The fraternity of the non-gazetted employees, who were on strike, sought to make fun of the complainant, who was a loyalists co-worker and was not participating in the strike. The fun was in the nature of having taken a photograph of the loyalist worker with a garland of shoes around his neck. The photograph was neither shown to the complainant nor published. In a prosecution under section 504 against the accused for having insulted the complainant, the submission was made on behalf of the accused that the triviality of the act with a view to befooling a member of the fraternity should operate as a bar to the wrong alleged. The plea was not sustained and it was held that the complainant had been subjected to indignity although the Court took a lenient view of the matter by merely admonishing the accused; Kishori Mohan v. State of Bihar, 1976 Cri LJ 654.
Private defence: object
In judging whether accused has exceeded his right to private defence or not the court has to take into account the weapons used; Madan Mohan Pandey v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (1991) Cr LJ 467 (SC). The defence version regarding accused acting in self defence was liable to be proved by accused; Rasikbhai Ram Singh Rana v. State of Gujarat, 1999 (1) Guj CR 176. Where the right of private defence is pleaded, the defence must be a reasonable and probable version satisfying the cast that the harm caused by the accused was necessary for either warding off the attack or for forestalling the further reasonable apprehension from the side of the accused. The burden of establishing the plea of self-defence is on the accused and the burden stands discharged by showing preponderance of probabilities in favour of that plea on the basis of the material on record; Rizan v. State of Chattisgarh, AIR 2003 SC 976. The accused is not required to prove the plea of private defence of person beyond reasonable manner of doubt. The onus on the accused is only to show that the defence version is probable one which is reflected from the
salient features and the circumstances in the prosecution case itself; Sawai Ram v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 2 Crimes 148 (Raj). Divergent views expressed by court where prosecution failed to explain the injuries sustained by accused in same occurrence. Hence referred to larger Bench; Ram Sunder Yadav v. State of Bihar, 1999 Cr 1LJ 3671 (SC). It is well settled that in a free fight, no right of private defence is available to either party and each individual is responsible for his own acts.' While it is true that law does not expect from the person, whose life is placed in danger, to weigh, with nice precision, the extent and the degree of the force which he employs in his defence, it also does not countenance that the person claiming such a right should resort to force which is out of all proportion to the injuries received or threatened and far in excess of the requirement of the case.' A plea of private defence of person of co-accused not pleaded in his statement before the trial court can be sustained by the appellate court if it can be spelt out of prosecution evidence.' The right of self-defence would have accrued to the appellant only if he had an apprehension that either death or at least grievous hurt would be caused to him by the deceased. The evidence on record showed that the deceased was bare-handed, while the appellant was holding a danda. The mere act of chasing in an effort to catch hold of the appellant would not have been sufficient, by any stretch of imagination to raise an apprehension in the mind of the appellant that he would either be killed or made to suffer grievous hurt by the deceased. The little apprehension of being caught hold of could be repelled by him by using the danda against the deceased. There was no justification in his bringing out pistol and firing it at the deceased causing his death.' A plea of private defence of person of co-accused not pleaded in his statement before the trial court can be sustained by the appellate court if it can be spelt out of prosecution evidence.' In a free fight neither side has a right of private defence.' Private defence.—It is well-settled that the right of private defense need not be specifically pleaded. Its benefit can be given to the accused if circumstances show that he may have acted in exercise of it.' It is also well-settled that unexplained injuries of the accused are a strong basis for concluding that he might have acted in the exercise of such a right.' Persons exercising right of private defence do not intend to commit criminal Act.—If the appellants acted in exercise of their right of private defence of property, it cannot be said that they committed a criminal act in
furtherance of a common intention because Section 96, IPC makes it abundantly clear that nothing is an offence which is done in the exercise of the right of private defence. They did not intend to commit any criminal act or to do anything which may be described as unlawful. Their object was not to kill the deceased but to protect their property. It may be, that in a given case, it may be found on the basis of material on record that some of them may have exceeded their right of private defence and for that they may be individually held responsible. But it cannot be said that the murder was committed pursuant to a common intention to commit such crime.1 Right of private defence—Burden of proof.—An accused taking the plea of the right of private defence is not required to call evidence, he can establish his plea by reference to circumstances transpiring from the prosecution evidence itself. The question in such a case would be a question of assessing the true effect of the prosecution evidence and not a question of the accused discharging any burden. Where the right of private defence is pleaded the defence must be a reasonable and probable version satisfying the Court that the harm caused by the accused was necessary for either warding off the attack or for forestalling the further reasonable apprehension from the side of the accused. The burden of establishing the plea of self-defence is on the accused and the burden stands discharged by showing preponderance of probabilities in favour of that plea on the basis of the material on record.' Availability of right of private defence. —Non-explanation of the injuries sustained by the accused at about the time of occurrence or in the course of altercation is a very important circumstance. But mere non-explanation of the injuries by the prosecution may not affect the prosecution case in all cases. This principle applies to cases whether the injuries sustained by the accused are minor and superficial or where the evidence is so clear and cogent, so independent and disinterested so probable, consistent and creditworthy that it far outweighs the effect of the omission on the part of the prosecution to explain the injuries. In order to find whether right of private defence is available or not, the injuries received by the accused, the imminence of threat to his safety, the injuries caused by the accused and the circumstances whether the accused had time to have recourse to public authorities are all relevant factors to be considered. Thus, running to house fetching a tabli and assaulting the deceased are by no means a matter of course. These facts bear stamp of a design to kill and take the case out of the purview of private defence.' Sec. 97. Right of private defence of the body and of property. —Every person has a right, subject to the restrictions contained in section 99, to defend— First.— His own body, and the body of any other person, against any offence affecting the human body;
Secondly.— The property, whether movable or immovable, of himself or of any other person, against any act which is an offence falling under the definition of theft, robbery, mischief or criminal trespass, or which is an attempt to commit theft, robbery, mischief or criminal trespass.
Defence of body and property: scope Where the accused persons armed with guns started continuous firing at members of prosecution parties, even if accused has a claim of right to the property should have approached to Magistrate it is difficult to concede right of private defence; Ayodhya Ram v. State, 1999 (4) Crimes 113: 1999 SCC (Cr) 564. (1) Defence of body and property: Scope. — Section 97 provides that subject to the restrictions contained in section 99, every man has a right to defend his own body and the body of any other person, against any offence affecting the human body, and to defend his property, and the property of any other person, whether moveable or immoveable against theft, robbery, mischief, or criminal trespass or an attempt to commit any one of these offences. The section divides the right of private defence into two parts. The first part deals with the right of private defence of person, and the second part with the right of private defence of property. In order to ascertain whether the right of private defence is available to a person, the entire incident must be examined with care and viewed in its proper setting. The injuries received by the person, the imminence of threat to his safety, the injuries caused by the accused and the circumstances of whether the person had time to have recourse to public authorities are all relevant factors to be considered on a plea of private defence. In Biran Singh v. State of Bihar, 2 two of the accused, having received simple injuries, ran back to their house, fetched a sword and inflicted fatal blows on the head of the deceased with that sword. The court held that even assuming that the deceased had inflicted simple injuries on the accused, there could be no justification for any of the accused to hit the deceased with a sword on a vital part of the body such as the head. The severity of the injuries could not be said either to have been a matter of chance. The way the acc used murdered the deceased was by no means a matter of chance. Their acts bore a stamp of design. The right of private defence, therefore, could not be availed by the accused.
(2) Defence of body and property of others. — The right of private defence extends not only to the defence of one's own body and property, as under the English law, but also extends to defending the body and property of any other person. Thus under section 97 even a stranger can defend the person or prope rty of another person and vice versa, whereas under the English law there must be some kind of relationship existing, such as father and son, husband and wife, guardian and ward, master and servant, etc., before this right may be successfully exercised.
Rose: For instance, in Reg. v. Rose, 3 the accused, a boy of 21, who was charged for committing murder of his father, was held entitled to the right of privite defence. The accused was living with his mother and father. The relations between father and mother were strained, and his father frequently used to quarrel with his mother, whom he believed to be unfaithful. On the night of the fatal incident there was a quarrel between the accused's father and mother. The accused's mother called out 'murder'-'murder' as the father forced her to the top of the stairs and threatened to knife her. The accused shot and killed his father. There was no evidence that the father had a knife. The jury gave a verdict of not guilty. Lopes, J., summed up the law in the following words: ...If you think, having regard to the evidence,...that the prisoner.... acted without vindictive feeling towards his father when he fired the shot, if you think that at the time he fired the shot he honestly believed, and had reasonable grounds for the belief, that his mother's life was in imminent prill, and that the fatal shot which he fired was absolutely necessary for the preservation of her life, then he ought to be excused, and the law will excuse him, from the consequences of homicide....
(3) Right of private defence of trespasser against true owner. — A true owner has every right to dispossess or throw out a trespasser, while the trespasser is in the act or process of trespassing but has not accomplished his mission; but this right is not available t o the true owner if the trespasser has been successful in accomplishing possession and his success is known by the true owner. In such circumstances the law requires that the true owner should dispossess the trespasser by taking recourse to the remedies available under the law.
On facts, where the complainant even after encroachment had established his possession over the land in dispute for two to three weeks before the occurrence, for the purpose of criminal law, the complainant must be treated to be in actual physical possession of the land so as to have a right of private defence to defend his possession even against the true owner. The complaint, therefore, was fully justified in protesting to the accused when he tried to pass through his field and caused damage to his paddy crop by forcibly taking bullocks through that field. In these circumstances the appellants, who were undoubtedly the aggressors and had opened the assault, could claim no right of private defence either of person or property)
(4) Agressor cannot take the plea of self-defence. — In Jaipal v. State of Haryana,' the apex court held that an aggressor cannot claim the right of private defence. In the instant case the fact that the accused persons were armed with the dangerous weapons and no one from complainant party was armed with any dangerous weapons shows that the accused party alone had the intention to attack but not the complainant party. It is clear from the evidence that Accused No. 1 gave gandasa blow to the deceased, which landed on head and the second blow cut his finger and then Accused Nos. A-2 and A-3 dealt blows with their lathis on vital parts. Under the
circumstances, the apex Court while approving of the High Court's verdict held that the complainant was not the aggressor but t he appellants were aggressor. The appeal was accordingly dismissed. Burden of proof of establishing self defence on accused. (5) Number of Injuries not safe criterion for determining Aggressor. — Subramani: In Subramani v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2005),' the apex Court held ti in case of the right of private defence the number of injuries is not always a safe criterion for determining who the aggressor was. It cannot be stated as a universal rule that whenever the injuries are on the body of the accused persons, a presumption must necessarily be raised that the accused persons had caused injuries in exercise of the right of private defence. The defence has to further establish that the injuries so caused on the accused justify (probabilise) the version of the right of private defence. The right of private defence is essentially a defensive right and is available only when the circumstances clearly justify it. It could not be allowed to be availed of as a pretest for a vindictive, aggressive or retributive purpose of offence. Though it cannot be laid down as a rule of universal application that whenever death occurs on account of a single blow, section 302, 1.P.C. is ruled out, the fact-situation has to be considered in each case. It appears from the records, that a single blow was given on the head Of the deceased by a small wooden yoke (bar). Considering the facts as noted above, the Court altered the conviction from section 302, I.P.C. to section 304, Part 1, I.P.C. and said custodial sentence of 10 years would meet the ends of justice. Onus of establishing defence. — The onus of establishing plea of right of private defence is on the accused though he is entitled to show that this right is established or can be sustained on the prosecution evidence itself. The right of private defence is purely preventive and not punitive or retributive.
(6) (7) Once it is held that the party of the accused were the aggressors, then merely because a gun was used after some of the partymen had received several injuries at the hands of those who were protecting their paddy crop and resisting the aggression of the party of the accused, there can be no ground for taking the case out of section 302, I.P.C., if otherwise the injuries caused bring the case within the definition of murder. (8) Ishwar Singh: In Ishwar Singh v. State of Rajasthan,' the apex Court held that in order to invoke the right of defence to person or property, the accused must prove that he was placed in such a dangerous situation that to protect himself he had to use reasonable force. In the impugned case the field was in possession of the accused and the other party went there to take possession of it. There was a fight between the two parties which resulted in the death of one and caused injuries to several membe rs of both the parties. (9) The question was as to whether the accused had used reasonable force as necessary to protect their possession over the field and also to protect their persons. (10) The High Court presumed that since the accused were in possession of the field and the complainants' party had come to take possession of
the same, the initiative of beating must have been taken by them, and they were justified in using reasonable force as necessary to protect their possession over the field and also to protec t their persons.' Gottipulla: An accused person taking the plea of the right of private defence is not required to call evidence but can establish that plea by reference to circumstances. And the accused is entitled to the benefit of doubt, if the court is in doubt whether or not the accused has been able to substantiate completely to its satisfaction the plea set up by law. The fact that the plea of self -defence is not raised by an accused and that he on the contrary pleads an alibi, does not preclude the court from giving to him the benefit of the right of private defence, if, on proper appraisal of the evidence and other relevant material on the record, the court concludes that the circumstances in which the accused finds himself at the relevant time give s him the right to use a gun in exercise of this right.
Sec. 98. Right of private defence against the act of a person of unsound mind, etc.—When an act, which would otherwise be a certain offence, is not that offence, by reason of the youth, the want of maturity of understanding, the unsoundness of mind or the intoxication of the person doing that act, or by reason of any misconception on the part of that person, every person has the same right of private defence against that act which he would have if the act were that offence. Illustrations (a) Z, under the influence of madness, attempts to kill A; Z is guilty of no offence. But A has the same right of private defence which he would have if Z were sane. (b) A enters by night a house which he is legally entitled to enter Z, in good faith, taking A for a house-breaker, attacks A. Here Z, by attacking A under this misconception, commits no offence. But A has the same right of private defence against Z, which he would have if Z were not acting under that misconception. Section 98 assumes that the right to private defence from its very nature admits of no exception since it is the right of preservation of one's life and property as also of another's life and property against the world at large. This section provides that the right of private defence extends even against an offence committed by a person who might not be responsible in law for his deeds by reason of the doer being a man of unsound mind (section 84), or because of want of maturity of understanding (sections 82, 83), or by reason of any misconception on the part of that person (sections 76, 79). For instance, if A, an insane person, attempts to kill B, A is not guilty of any offence (section 84). But B will have the same right of private defence agai nst A which he would have, were B sane. Likewise, a tree, after its severance from the ground, becomes the property of the landlord, giving him the right of ingress on the tenant's land to remove it, and if the tenant
resists such removal, the landlord bec omes entitled to a right of private defence of property under section 98, Indian Penal Code.' Sec. 99. Acts against which there is no right of private defence. — There is no right of private defence against an act which does not reasonably cause the apprehension of death or of grievous hurt, if done, or attempted to be done, by a public servant acting in good faith under colour of his office, though that act, may not be strictly justifiable by law. There is no right of private defence against an act which does not reasonably cause the apprehension of death or of grievous hurt, if done, or attempted to be done, by the direction of a public servant acting in good faith under colour of his office, though that direction may not be strictly justifiable by law. There is no right of private defence in cases in which there is time to have recourse to the protection of the public authorities. Extent to which the right may be exercised.—The right of private defence in no case extends to the inflicting of more harm than it is necessary to inflict for the purpose of defence. Explanation 1.—A person is not deprived of the right of private defence against an act done, or attempted to be done, by a public servant, as such, unless he knows or has reason to believe, that the person doing the act is such public servant. Explanation 2.—A person is not deprived of the right of private defence against an act done, or attempted to be done, by the direction of a public servant, unless he knows, or has reason to believe, that the person doing the act is acting by such direction, or unless such person states the authority under which he acts, or if he has authority in writing, unless he produces such authority, if demanded. The right of private defence of person and property is recognised in all free, civilised, democratic societies within certain reasonable limits. Those limits are dictated by two considerations: society; and (2) that it is the State which generally undertakes the responsibility for the maintenance of law and order. The citizens, as a general rule, are neither expected to run away for safety when faced with grave and imminent danger to their person or property as a result of unlawful aggression, nor are they expected, by use of force, to right the wrongs done to them or to punish the wrong doer for commission of offences. The right of private defence serves a social purpose and as observed by the courts more than once there is nothing more degrading to the human spirit than to run away in face of peril. But this right is basically preventive and not punitive.
(1) that the same right is claimed by all other members of the
Section 99 lays down the conditions and limits within which the right of private defence can be exercised. The section gives a defensive right to a man and not an offensive right. That is to say, it does not arm a man with fire and ammunition, but encourages him to help himself and others, if there is a reasonable apprehension of danger to life and property. The first two clauses provide that the right of private defence cannot be invoked against a public servant or a person acting in good faith in the exercise of his legal duty provided that the act is not illegal. Similarly, clause three restricts the right of private defence, if there is time to seek help of pu blic authorities. And the right must be exercised in proportion to the harm to be inflicted. In other words, there is no right of private defence:
(i) Against the acts of a public servant acting in good faith; and
Against the acts of those acting under their authority or direction; (iii) Where there is sufficient time for recourse to public authorities; and (iv) The quantum of harm that may be caused shall in no case be in excess of harm that may be necessary for the purpose of defence.
(ii) 1. Acts of public servant. — As explained earlier, the first clause refers to the acts of a public servant, while the second clause refers to acts done under the authority or direction of a public servant. The object behind deprivation of the right of private defence in such cases is that the p ublic servants act in accordance with law for the benefit of the public in general and so protection of public servants is necessary in the public interest. However, the protection to public servants is not absolute. It is subject to restrictions. The acts in either of these clauses (first and second) must not be of serious consequences resulting in apprehension of causing death or of grievous hurt which would deprive one of his right of private defence.
To avail the benefit of those clauses (i) the act don e or attempted to be done by a public servant must be done in good faith; (ii) the act must be done under the colour of his office; and (iii) there must be reasonable grounds for believing that the acts were done by a public servant as such or under his authority in the exercise of his legal duty and that the act is not illegal (Explanations I and II). Thus, in brief, the law with regard to public servants may be summarised as stated below:
So long as a public servant acts legally in the exercise of his official powers, there is no right of private defence against him, for the simple reason that his act is not an offence (it follows from sections 96 and 99 of the Penal Code). If his acts are wholly illegal, he is in the same position as any private individual and is not entitled to any special protection. But protection is extended even to those acts of public servants or of persons acting'under their authority for direction which are not strictly justifiable and yet are not wholly authorised provided the following conditions are satisfied:
(1) that the act does not cause reasonable apprehension of
death or of grievous hurt;
(2) that the act is done in good faith; (3) that the act is done under colour of his office; (4) that it is known at the time that the act is being done by a
public servant as such or under his authority; and
(5) that the irregularity does not transgress the limit of being 'strictly justifiable by law,.' Williams : However, as held by a New Zealand Court in Williams v. Police, if the act of the public servant is not lawful, the right of private defence does not extend to the causing of necessary harm. Two uniformed constables, who had been directed to investigate a complaint of assault, stopped a vehicle corresponding to the complainant's description of his assailant's car. Two of the occupants, Williams and Bluegum, got out. "Williams denied of any knowledge of the assault and was asked to wait until the complainant arrived to see if he could identify them". William refused and moved to get into the car . The constable said: "You are not going anywhere", and stepped between the Williams and the car, and was pushed away, quite forcibly, though he managed to stay on his feet. The other constable also endeavoured to block the way. He too was pushed but with less force. The first constable then purported to arrest Williams. He resisted, and Bluegum grabbed the constable. Both were arrested. Both Williams and Bluegum were charged and convicted by the trial court with assaulting both the constables and obstructi ng them in execution of their duty. Allowing the appeal, the High Court of New Zealand held that the constables had no power to detain the vehicle or its occupiers. By pushing the constables as he did, Williams committed technical assaults on them, but they were not assault committed while the constables were acting in the execution of their duty. The two constables not only stood in William's way, but one of them made it clear that they were not going to let Williams get into the car. In those circumstances, he was entitled to do what he did, the force applied was not excessive, and no offence was committed. By his own acts the first constable had precipitated a confrontation. He wrongfully interfered with the rights of a citizen and thereby gave to an altercation. In these circumstances, he could not claim to have reasonable cause to believe that an offence had been committed. The purported arrest of Williams, although done in the best of faith was not lawful. Any show of reasonable force by Williams thereafter was justified as self-defence, and he did not exceed that limit.
2. Good faith . — Good faith plays a vital role under this section. Good faith does not require logical infallibility (accuracy) but due care and caution as defined under section 52 of the Code. Thus a police officer acting bona fide under the colour of his office, should he arrest a person even
though he has no authority to arrest under the particular circumstances of the case, the person so arrested has no right of private defence.
However, if the act of the public servant is ultra vires, the right of private defence can be exercised against him. For instance, the act of an officer of the court who acts under a time -expired warrant and attaches property, cannot be said to have been done ac cording to law and in good faith. 3 Similarly, search made in violation of the mandatory provisions of law for purpose of making an investigation into an offence as laid down in section 165, Cr. P.C., 1973 cannot be said to be done in good faith and with due care and attention. 10 Kesho Ram: In Kesho Ram v. Delhi Administration,' the Supreme Court held that an immunity under section 99, I.P.C. can be claimed by a public servant, if he acts in good faith and under the colour of his officer, even though the legality of the act could not otherwise be sustained. The appellant gave a blow to an Inspector of the Delhi Municipal Corporation who, in discharge of his duty, had gone to collect the milk tax (as provided under section 161 of the Corporation Act) and had seized his buffalo. The appellant was convicted for assaulting the Inspector. The appellant's plea that as there was no notice of demand sent to him (as required under section 154), the act of seizure of the buffalo in default of payment of tax was an act in exercise of bad faith. Rejecting the appellant's contention the court held that the Inspectors were acting honestly in good faith in the exercises of the power delegated to them by the Commissioners. Their attempt to recover the tax due, by seizure of the animal did not lack good faith. In the circumstances, section 99 did confer a protection upon the employees of the corporation who acted in good faith under the colour of their office. Reasonable apprehension of death or grievous hurt. —Both clauses 1 and 2 of the section 99 state that there will be no right of private defence against those acts of public servants or those done under the direction and authority of public servants which do not reasonably cause apprehension of death or grievous hurt which is always a question of fact to be determined from surrounding circumstances. Paramsukh: In Paramsukh; a Sub-Inspector of Police accompanied by a constable, on being falsely informed that certain stolen property was in the possession of one X, proceeded to his house. On arriving at X's house he found that X was not at home and so he demanded the said property from X's wife, who denied any knowledge about the property in question and asked him to wait until the arrival of her husband. The sub -inspector
Mithu Khan v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1969 Raj 121. A search party consisting of a narcotic Inspector, an informer and policemen attempted to enter the house of the accused for the recovery of contraband opium. The Inspector did not specify the grounds which had led him to believe that the contraband was stored at that place. The appellant resisted the entry and struck the members of the party when they attempted to enter the house. Held, sec. 99, I.P.C. will not apply.
declined to wait and threatened the woman with a cane and laid hands on her. On hearing her cries, the accused rushed to the spot to render help. An altercation ensued, and the accused on being assaulted by the sub-Inspector and constable, snatched a heavy stick f rom the latter and struck two blows on the forehead of the sub -Inspector, which proved fatal. It was held that the accused had a right of private defence against dual assault on his person. The act of the sub-Inspector was not done in good faith and was an illegal act for there is no law to justify a public servant in causing death or grievous hurt or attempting to cause death or grievous hurt in discharge of his duties. No Right of defence if time to have recourse to the Public Authority.—Clause 3 lays down that there is no right of private defence or the protection of one's own body or property, as also another's body or property, if there is reasonable opportunity of redress by recourse to the public authorities. No man has a right to take the law into his own hands. Puran Singh: In Puran Singh v. State of Punjab' the Supreme Court while explaining the theme of right of private defence observed: Where there is an element of invasion or aggression on the property by a person who has no right to possession, then there is obviously no room to have recourse to the public authorities and the accused has the undoubted right to resist the attack and use even force if necessary. Harm caused must be proportionate to the injury. —Clause 4 to section 99 provides that the injury to be inflicted should be proportionate to the harm caused or attempted to be caused. The right of private defence is a defensive right circumscribed by the statute, available only when the circumstances clearly justify it. It should not be allowed to be used or availed of as a gift for a vindictive, aggressive or retributive purpose. The right of private defence in no case extends to the inflicting of more harm than is necessary in the particular case. For instance, in Munney Khan', the accused Munney Khan after taking into custody a thief who was trying to escape, stabed him with a knife and thereby the thief dies, the accused Munney Khan has exceeded his right of private defence. He should have used only that much force as was necessary for the purpose of taking the thief into custody. Ramesh Chandra: Similarly, in Ramesh Chandra v. State," where the accused inflicted blows on the deceased after the latter had fallen on the ground and the weapon had been taken away from him, the court held that the conduct of the accused could not justifiably be within the limits of rights of private defence. Bhaja Pradhan: In Bhaja Pradhan, 5 the deceased had stolen a goat from the cattleshed of the accused. The accused charged him to
recover his property and, in the process of recovering it, assaulted him without knowing th4t he had struck vital body parts. Held, the accused exceeded the right of private defence. Baljit Singh: Similarly in Baljit Singh,' the Supreme Court held that the actual possession of the disputed land did permit the accused the right to defend the property from being dispossessed. But had the right exercised resulted in fatal injuries to the aggressors, the accused would have exceeded the limit of the lawful exercise of that right. Sec. 100. When the right of private defence of the body extends to causing death.—The right of private defence of the body extends, under the restrictions mentioned in the last preceding section, to the voluntary causing of death or of any other harm to the assailant, if the offence which occasions the exercise of the right be of any of the descriptions hereinafter enumerated, namely:— First.—Such an assault as may reasonably cause the apprehension that death will otherwise be the consequence of such assault; Secondly.— Such an assault as may reasonably cause the apprehension that grievous hurt will otherwise be the consequence of such assault; Thirdly.— An assault with the intention of committing rape; Fourthly.— An assault with the intention of gratifying unnatural lust; Fifthly.— An assault with the intention of kidnapping or abducting; Sixthly.— An assault with the intention of wrongfully confining a person, under circumstances which may reasonably cause him to apprehend that he will be unable to have recourse to the public authorities for his release. 11 [Seventhly.—An act of throwing or administering acid or an attempt to throw or administer acid which may reasonably cause the apprehension that grievous hurt will otherwise be the consequence of such act.]
If the accused had already dealt several blows on the deceased, he could not have been in a position to shoot at the accused persons. Having regard to some of the admissions made by the witnesses, it appears that the accused took forcible possession of the land some days ago. Therefore, even assuming that they came into possession after committing trespassing, if the deceased and others had gone to the land they cannot be held to be aggressors as pleaded by the defence; Khuddu v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1993 SC 1538 (1540).
Ins. by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, sec. 2 (w.r.e.f. 3-2-2012).
Self inflicted injuries not explained by prosecution except the reliance on medical evidence acquittal of accused not justified; Chuhar Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1999 SC 1052: 1991 SCC (Cr) 1066: 1998 (4) JT 449. The inmates clearly had a right of private defence against the intruders who tried to extract money by force; Kishore Shambhudatta Mishra v. State of Maharashtra, (1989) Cr 14 1149: AIR 1989 SC 1173. Right of private defence to cause death Under what circumstances accused gave knife blow to the deceased could not be explained by accused, acquittal on ground of self defence not justified; State of Uttar Pradesh v. Laeeg, AIR 1999 SC 1942: 1999 (5) SCC 588. While being chased by deceased appellant attacked on deceased caused fire incised wound, held exceeded the right of private defence, conviction under section 304 Part I proper; Suresh Singh v. State, AIR 1999 SC 1773: 1999 (2) Crimes 42. Attack by single blow on the neck of deceased proved fatal. Held accused exceeded right of private defence; Amar Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1997 SCC (Cr) 630. Ingredients. — To invoke section 100, I.P.C., four conditions must exist, viz.,
1. 2. firstly, that the person exercising the right of private defence must be free from fault in bringing about the encounter; secondly, there must be present an impending peril to life or of great bodily harm, either real or so apparent as to create an honest belief of exceeding (great) necessity; thirdly, there must be no safe or reasonable mode of escape by retreat; and 4. fourthly, there must have been a necessity for taking the life.
Ghenu: The 'retreat' aspect of self-defence is open to question. As observed by the courts on a number of occasions 'there is nothing more degrading to the human spirit than to run away in the face of peril'. This was once again reiterated by the Supreme Court in State of Orissa v. Glienu. 1 The respondent was charged under section 302, I.P.C. for murdering his brother but acquitted on the ground that the accused had caused the death while exercising the right of private defence. On the day of occurrence both the accused and deceased were highly inebriated (drunk) and had a quarrel, in the course of which the deceased rushed towards the respondent with a lathi to assault him and, immediately apprehending danger to his life, the respondent dealt a tangi blow to the head of the deceased, as a consequence of which he died in hospital. The main question was:
whether the assault by the deceased had caused to the respondent reasonable apprehension of death or grievous hurt. Considering the evidence, the High Court held that there was imminent danger to the person of the respondent and as such he had the right of private defence of his person. While reaching this conclusion, the court also took into consideration the fact that the deceased and the respondent were adivasis (tribals) and that adivasis are of a volatile nature and their temper and sentiment cannot be judged in the framework of those of other persons. Apprehension of death or grievous hurt cases. — Somnath Das: In Somnath Das v. State of Orissa,' the accused and the deceased were cousins who did not pull on well. A free fight took place between them and subsequently the accused was charged with the murder of the deceased. It was held from the facts as ascertained by the court that the deceased had done nothing as to cause a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the accused that he was threatened either with death or grievous hurt. He had merely picked up a lathi thrown at him by the son of the accused, whereupon the accused felled him with fatal blows. There was therefore no reasonable apprehension in the mind of the accused that either death or grievous hurt would befall (happen) upon him, had he not exercised his right of private defence. Nand Kishore Lal: In Nand Kishore 2 accused, who were Sikhs, abducted a Mohammadan married woman and converted her to Sikhism. Nearly a year after the abduction, the relatives of the woman's husband came and demanded her return from the accused. The latter refused to comply and the woman herself expressly stated her unwillingness to rejoin her Muslim husband. Thereupon the husband's relatives attempted to take her away by force. The accused resisted the attempt and in so doing one of them inflicted a blow on the head of one of the woman's assailants, which resulted in the latter's death. It was held that the right of the accused to defend the woman against her assailants extended under this section to the causing of death and they had, therefore, committed no offence. 3 Right of private defence extends to the extent of causing death when daughter was being sexually assaulted. — Yeshwant Rao: In Yeshwant Rao v. State of Madhya Pradesh'', the deceased, Lakhan Singh was engaged in a sexual intercourse with the daughter of the appellant. On witnessing the same, the appellant assaulted the deceased on the head with a spade. This resulted in his death due to the rupture of liver which could be either by falling on a hard object, or as a result of the blow given by the appellant. The trial court convicted the appellant under section 325, I.P.C. for causing hurt and the high court confirmed the conviction. In appeal, the Supreme Court set aside the conviction and held that the right of private defence was fully applicable to the facts of the case vide sections 96, 97 read with section 100 clause (3) of I.P.C. Whether it was case of sexual intercourse with or without consent, the fact remains that the daughter was of fifteen years of age a nd,
therefore the act of deceased would amount to rape within the meaning of section 375, clause (6) of the I.P.C. Deo Narain: In Deo Narain v. State of Uttar Pradesh,' the Supreme Court held that when a blow is aimed at a vulnerable part of the body, such as the head, even by a lathi, and cases are not. unknown in which such a blow by a lathi has actually proved instantaneously fatal, it cannot be laid down as a sound proposition of law that in such cases the victim is not justified in using even his spear in defending himself. In moments of excitation or disturbed mental equilibrium it is somewhat difficult to expect parties facing grave aggression to coolly weigh in a golden scale, or calmly determine with a composed mind, precisely the kind and severity of blow that would be legally sufficient to effectively meet the unlawful aggression. Sec. 101. When such right extends to causing any harm other than death.—If the offence be not of any of the descriptions enumerated in the last preceding section, the right of private defence of the body does not extend to the voluntary causing of death to the assailant, but does extend, under the restrictions mentioned in section 99, to the voluntary causing to the assailant of any harm other than death. Reasonable Apprehension of Danger.—Under S. 101 a person is entitled to exercise his right of private defence of the body as against any assault other than the first and secondly of S. 100, to the extent of causing grievous hurt. If, after the commission of an assault of a simple or grievous nature, there is in any case no further apprehension of assault, occasion for the exercise of his right of private defence of the body should not arise. At the same time the possibility of inflicting further assault likely to cause grievous bodily injury, cannot as a rule be ruled out on the mere ground that the injury or the injuries already inflicted are simple. The law in this aspect honours the human instinct of self-preservation. In considering whether one is entitled to exercise the right of private defence on his body, one has to place himself in the position of the accused in the midst of the circumstances in which the accused stood and to form his opinion whether for the accused in those circumstances, it was not fairly wise to apprehend an injury to the body as would entitle the accused to exercise the right that the accused claims to have done. Where a defendant charged with murder asserts that he killed in self-defence, his state of mind at the time of killing becomes material and an important element in determining his justification for his belief in an impending attack by the deceased. The reputation of the deceased for a violent, dangerous or turbulent disposition is thus a circumstance which would cause such a belief. Again the previous temperament and disposition shown in his conduct at the time of the assault must go a great way to cause belief in the mind of the accused in an impending danger to life accompanied with little chance of escape. But mere threat, not carried out and later completely abandoned followed by the retracting of steps by the threatener would not justify any assault
from the person threatened, as he must have been convinced that the person threatened did not mean to carry out the empty threat.' Munney Khan v. State of Madhya Pradesh [1970 (2) Supreme Court Cases, 480] Facts.—The Trial Court and the High Court of Madhya Pradesh found that one Reotisingh picked up a quarrel with the appellant's brother Zulfiquar, overpowered him, threw him on the ground and sat on his chest. The appellant seeing his brother beaten came to his rescue and tried to save him by giving fist blows to Reotisingh. When he did not succeed he took out a knife and stabbed him in the back. On these facts the Trial Court and the High Court convicted the appellant for the offence of murder under S. 302 and sentenced him to life imprisonment. In the appeal by the accused in the Supreme Court, the question for decision was whether the right of selfdefence of the body of brother which had accrued to him could justify his act in stabbing Reotisingh in his back to cause his death. Decision : Held Per Bhargava, J.—Reotisingh was the aggressor and was causing hurt to Zulfiquar, the brother of the appellant, so that a right of self-defence of body of his brother Zulfiquar had accrued to the appellant. That right, however, could not justify the act of the appellant in stabbing Reotisingh on his back so as to cause his death. The right of private defence was a very limited one. It only extended to causing hurt of any kind to Reotisingh, but it did not provide any justification for giving a fatal blow. Such a right of private defence is governed by S. 101, I.P.C. and is subject to two limitations. One is that in exercise of this right of private defence any kind of hurt can be caused, but not death; and the other is that the use of force does not exceed the minimum required to save the person in whose defence the force is used. In these circumstances, in the present case, when Zulfiquar was being given fist blows only, there could be no justification at all for the appellant to stab Reotisingh with a knife and particularly to give him a blow which could prove fatal by aiming it on his back. The use of the knife itself was in excess of the right of private defence and it became much more excessive when the blow with the knife was given on a vital part of the body which, in ordinary course of nature, was likely to cause the death of Reotisingh. From the fact that the blow was given in the back with a knife, an inference follows that the appellant intended to cause death or at least intended to cause such injury as would, in the ordinary course of nature, result in his death. In adopting the course the appellant would have been clearly guilty of the offence of murder had there been no right of private defence of Zulfiquar at all. Since such a right did exist the case would fall under the exception under which culpable homicide does not amount to murder on the ground that the death was caused in exercise of the right of private defence but by exceeding that right. An offence of this nature is made punishable under the first part of S. 304, I.P.C. Consequently the conviction of the appellant must be under that provision and not under S. 302, I.P.C. Per Dua J.—The right of private defence is codified in Ss. 96 to 100, I.P.C., which have all to be read together in order to have a proper grasp of the scope and the limitations of the right. By enacting these sections in the Code the authors wanted to except from the operation of its penal clauses of acts done in good faith for the purpose of repelling unlawful aggression. This
right is available against an offence and, therefore, where an act is done in exercise of the right of private defence, such act cannot give rise to any right of private defende in favour of the aggressor in return. This would seem to be so even if the person exercising the right of private defence has the better of his aggressor provided of course he does not exceed his right because the moment he exceeds it he commits an offence. There is no right of private defence in cases where there is time to have recourse to the protection of public authorities. The right of private defence is essentially a defensive right circumscribed by the statute available only when the circumstances clearly justify it. It should not be allowed to be pleaded or availed of as a pretext for a vindictive, aggrealkive or retributive purpose. According to S. 97, this right vests even in stranger for the defence of body and property of other persons against offences me tinned therein. The Courts have therefore to be careful in seeing that no one the mere pretext of the exercise of the right of private defence takes side in a quarrel between two or more persons and inflicts injuries on the one or the other. In a case when two parties are having a free fight without disclosing as to who is the initial aggressor, it may be dangerous as a general rule to clothe either of them or his sympathiser with a right of private defence. If, however, one of them - is shown to be committing an offence affecting human body, then that would of course seem to give rise to such a right. If there is no initial right of private defence then there can hardly be any question of exceeding that right. In the result, the appeal was partly allowed, the conviction under S. 302, I.P.C. set aside and the appellant was convicted instead under the first part of S. 304, I.P.C. The sentence of imprisonment for life was set aside and, instead, a sentence of seven years' rigorous imprisonment was awarded. Sec. 102. Commencement and continuance of the right of private defence of the body.—The right of private defence of the body commences as soon as a reasonable apprehension of danger to the body arises from an attempt or threat to commit the offence though the offence may not have been committed; and it continues as long as such apprehension of danger to the body continues. It is clear, from the wording of S. 102 that the right commences and continues as long as danger to the body lasts. The extent to which the exercise of the right will be justified will depend not on the actual danger but on whether there was reasonable apprehension of such danger. There must be an attempt or threat, and consequence thereupon an apprehension of danger, but it should not be a mere idle threat. There must be reasonable ground for the apprehension. In Deo Narain v. State of Uttar Pradesh,' the High Court of Allahabad,' while upholding the conclusions of the trial court that the accused person had the right of private defence and that they were justified in exercising that right, held that, in its opinion, that right had been exceeded by the appellant Deo Narain in inflicting the spear injury on the chest of Chandrama deceased, which was responsible for his death. The reasoning of the High Court in convicting the appellant was that it, was only if the
complainant's party had actually inflicted a serious injury on the accused that the right of private defence could arise justifying the causing of death. In appeal by special leave their lordships of the Supreme Court observed that, in their opinion, the High Court seemed to have erred in law in convicting the appellant on the ground that he had exceeded the right of private defence. What the High Court really seemed to have missed was the provision of law embodied in S. 102, I.P.C. According to that section, the right of private defence of the body commences as soon as a reasonable apprehension of danger to the body arises from an attempt or threat to commit the offence though the offence may not have been committed and such right continues so long as such apprehension of danger to the body continues. The threat, however, must reasonably give rise to the present and imminent and not remote or distant danger. This right rests on the general principle that where a crime is endeavoured to be committed by force, it is lawful to repel that force in self-defence. To say that the appellant could only claim the right to use force after he had sustained a serious injury by an aggressive wrongful assault is a complete misunderstanding of the late embodied in the above section. The right of private defence is available for protection against apprehending unlawful aggression and not for punishing the aggressor for the offence committed by him. It is a preventive and not punitive right. The right to punish for the commission of offences vests in the State (which has a duty to maintain law and order) and not in private individuals. If after sustaining a serious injury there is no apprehension of further danger to the body, then obviously the right of private defence would not be available. Again, the approach of the High Court that merely because the complainant's party had used lathis, the appellant was not justified in using his spear is no less misconceived and unsupportable. It cannot be laid down as a general rule that the use of lathi as distinguished from the use of a spear must always be held to result only in milder injury. Much depends on the nature of the lathi, the part of the body aimed at and the force used in giving the blow. If, therefore, a blow with a lathi is aimed at a vulnerable part like the head, it cannot be laid down as a sound proposition of law that in such cases the victim is not justified in using his spear in defending himself. In such moments of excitement of disturbed mental equilibrium, it is somewhat difficult to expect parties facing grave aggression to coolly weigh, as if in golden scales, and calmly determine with a composed mind as to what precise kind and severity of blow would be legally sufficient for effectively meeting the unlawful aggression. The High Court was therefore wrong in denying the appellant the right of private defence on the sole ground that he had given a dangerous blow with considerable force with a spear on the chest of the deceased though he himself had only received a superficially lathi blow on his head. The Code excepts from the operation of its penal clauses large classes of acts done in good faith for the purpose of repelling unlawful aggression but this right has been regulated and circumscribed by several principles of limitations. The most salient of them concerning the defence of body are as under : (1) There is no right of private defence against an act which is not in itself an offence under the Code.
(2) The right avails only against a danger imminent, present and real. (3) It is a defensive and not a punitive or retributive right and, therefore, the injury which is inflicted by the person exercising the right should be commensurate with the injury with which he is threatened. At the same time, it is difficult to expect from a person exercising this right in good faith, to weigh 'with golden scales' what maximum amount of force is necessary to keep within the right. Every reasonable allowance should be made for the bona fide defender if he with the instinct of self-preservation strong upon him, pursues, his defence a little further than may be strictly necessary in the circumstances to avert the attack. It would be wholly unrealistic to expect of a person under assault, to modulate his defence step by step according to the attack. (4) A person who is in imminent and reasonable danger of losing his life or limb may in the exercise of the right of self-defence inflict any harm, even extending to death on his assailant either when the assault is attempted or directly threatened. This principle is also subject to the preceding rule that the harm or death inflicted to avert the danger is not substantially disproportionate to and incommensurate with the quality and character of the perilous act or threat intended to be repelled. (5) There must be no safe or reasonable mode of escape by retreat for the person confronted with an impending peril to life or of grave bodily harm, except by inflicting death on the assailant. The right does not accrue and avail where there is "time to have recourse to the protection of the public authorities."' Sec. 103. When the right of private defence of property extends to causing death.—The right of private defence of property extends, under the restrictions mentioned in section 99, to the voluntary causing of death or of any other harm to the wrong-doer, if the offence, the committing of which, or the attempting to commit which, occasions the exercise of the right, be an offence of any of the descriptions hereinafter enumerated, namely:— First.—Robbery; Secondly.— House-breaking by night; Thirdly.— Mischief by fire committed on any building, tent or vessel, which building, tent or vessel is used as a human dwelling, or as a place for the custody of property; Fourthly.— Theft, mischief, or house-trespass, under such circumstances as may reasonably cause apprehension that death or grievous hurt will be the consequence, if such right of private defence is not exercised.
Section 100 catalogues the cases in which the right of private defence of the body extends, under the restrictions mentioned in S. 99, to the voluntary causing of death. The present section, however, catalogues the
cases in which the right of private defence of property extends, under the restrictions mentioned in S. 99, to the voluntary causing of death. The causing of death in order to prevent the commission of an offence specified in cl.(4) will be justified only where that offence is sufficient to cause a reasonable apprehension of death or grievous hurt. This clause will not apply when the apprehension of death arises by reason of the intervention of the person or persons exercising the right of private defence.' Extent of right of private defence. —While it is true that in exercise of the right of private defence, only such force may be used as may be necessary, but it is equally well settled that at a time when a person is faced with imminent peril of life and limb of himself or other, he is not expected to weigh. in golden scales the precise force needed to repeal the danger. Even if he, in the heat of moment, carries his defence a little further than what would be necessary when calculated with precision and exactitude by a claim and unruffled mind, the law makes due allowance for it.' Sec. 104. When such right extends to causing any harm other than death.—If the offence, the committing of which, or the attempting to commit which, occasions the exercise of the right of private defence, be theft, mischief, or criminal trespass, not of any of the descriptions enumerated in the last preceding section, that right does not extend to the voluntary causing of death, but does extend, subject to the restrictions mentioned in section 99, to the voluntary causing to the wrong-doer of any harm other than death. Right of private defence short of death Section 104 will apply if the wrong doers commit or attempt to commit any of the following offences: (1) theft, (2) mischief or trespass not of the description which is covered under section 103, subject of course to restrictions mentioned in section 99; and in such a case the right of private defence of property would extend only to causing harm other than death to him; Jai Bhagwan v. State of Haryana, AIR 1999 SC 1083. Right of private defence short of death . — Section 104 restricts the right of private defence of property, as section 101 puts a check on the right to private defence of the body, to causing any harm short of death in the exercise of the right of private defence. Section 104 accordingly provides that if the offence which occasions the exercise of the right of private defence, be theft, mischief or criminal trespass, and not of any of the descriptions enumerated in section 103, the right of defence extends only to the voluntary causing of any harm other than death. Nathan: In Nathan v. State of Madras,' the Supreme Court held that since it did not appear that the harvesting party was armed with any deadly weapons and there could not have been any fear of death or grievous hurt on the part of the appellant and his party,
under section 104, I.P.C. their right was limited to the causing of any harm other than death. The accused, though were exercising the right of private defence of property, exceeded that right when they caused the death of one of the harvesting party and hence their case fell under Exception 2 to section 300, I.P.C., and they will be liable for culpable homicide not amounting to murder under section 304, I.P.C. and not for murder. Sec. 105. Commencement and continuance of the right of private defence of property.—The right of private defence of property commences when a reasonable apprehension of danger to the property commences. The tight of private defence of property against robbery continues as long as the offender causes or attempts to cause to any person death or hurt or wrongful restraint or as long as the fear of instant death or of instant hurt or of instant personal restraint continues. The right of private defence of property against criminal trespass or mischief continues as long as the offender continues in the commission of criminal trespass or mischief. The right of private defence of property against house-breaking by night continues as long as the house-trespass which has been begun by such housebreaking continues. Commencement and continuance of right of private defence of property. — Section 105, I.P.C. like section 102, fixes the time when the right to private defence of property commences and when it comes to an end. The right of defence of property commences as soon as a reasonable apprehension of danger to the property commences. The continuance depends upon the nature of the offence. In cases of theft it continues until the offender has effected his retreat with the property, or the assistance of public authorities is obtained, or the property has been recovered. In cases o f robbery it continues as long as the offender causes or attempts to cause any person death or hurt, or as long as instant personal restraint continues. In cases of criminal trespass or mischief the right continues so long as the offender continues in the commission of criminal trespass or mischief. Amjad Khan: In Amjad Khan v. State,' the Supreme Court held that under sections 102 and 105 the right of private defence commences as soon as a reasonable apprehension of danger to the human body or the property of oneself or another person commences to arise from an attempt or threat to commit an offence, even though the offence may not be committed. While exercising the right of private defence of property, it is not at all necessary that the person exercising the right should wait until his property or another's is actually looted, or a house trespass actually occurs.
In determining whether the force employed in the exercise of the right was or was not more than what was actually necessary, and whether the circumstances in which a person was placed were or were
not such as to warrant the causing of death, it is unreasonable to weigh the facts of a case in too fine a set of scales (generally referred to as 'golden scales'). In the present case the facts were that a communal riot had broken out in the town of Katni in Madhya Pradesh between Sindhi refugees and local Muslims. Muslim shops were looted and some Muslim lives were lost. The mob then approached the shop of the accused and his brother, which were adjacent , and looted the brother's shop. The mob then beat upon the closed doors of the shop of the accused with lathis. The dwelling quarters of the accused's family were situated behind his brother's shop. Before the mob could break into the shop, the accused fired two shots from his gun, which resulted in the death of one man in the riotous crowd. Appellant was convicted both by trial court and High Court for exceeding the right of private offence of property. Allowing the appeal the Supreme Court held that the facts of the case were sufficient to afford to the accused a right of private defence which extended to the causing of death, because the accused had reasonable ground to apprehend that death or grievous hurt would be caused to his family, if he did not ac t promptly. He did not have to wait until the doors were broken open and the mob had entered the shop. The threat to break in was implicit in the conduct of the mob and, with it, the threat to kill the inmates once the doors were forced. This was evident from the fact that other Muslim shops had been looted and Muslim lives lost. Under the circumstances it had to be held that the threat to menace of death or at least grievous hurt had already commenced at the time when the accused fired two shots, and that the firing of two shots with the intent of staying a frenzied mob was not use of more force than was necessary.' The right of private defence of property against house-breaking by night continues as long as the house-trespass which has been begun by such housebreaking continues. Sec. 106. Right of private defence against deadly assault when there is risk of harm to innocent person.—If in the exercise of the right of private defence against an assault which reasonably causes the apprehension of death, the defender be so situated that he cannot effectually exercise that right without risk of harm to an innocent person, his right of private defence extends to the running of that risk. Illustration A is attacked by a mob who attempt to murder him. He cannot effectually exercise his right of private defence without firing on the mob, and he cannot fire without risk of harming young children who are mingled with the mob. A commits no offence if by so firing he harms any of the children.
Risk of harm to innocent persons . — Section 106 deals with a case of extreme necessity, in which a person is authorised by law to run the risk of harming even innocent persons in order to protect himself from mortal injury. The section provides that whenever an apprehension of death exists and the person is so situated that he cannot effectively exercise the right of private defence without the possibility of doing harm to an innocent person, he may take the risk of such harm resulting. For instance, as given in the illustration appended to the section, if A is attacked by a mob intending to murder him and he cannot effectively exercise his right of private defence without firing on the mob, and he cannot fire without the risk of harming young children who have mingled with the mob, he commits no offence if by so firing, he injures any one of the children. A had no option under the circumstances of the case for protecting himself except to fire at the mob and so his action is justified.
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