The extent of the injury that can be inflicted in exercising the right of self-defence is limited except in cases as referred in Sections 100 and 103 of the Code. Section 100 provides that the right of private defence of the body extends to the voluntary causing of death or of any other harm to the assailant, if the offence which occasions the exercise of the right of any of the following descriptions:
(i) Such an assault as may reasonably cause the apprehension that death will otherwise be the consequence of such assault; (ii) such an assault as may reasonably cause the apprehension that grievous hurt will otherwise be the consequence of such assault; (iii) an assault with the intention of committing rape; (iv) an assault with the intention of gratifying unnatural lust; (v) an assault with the intention of kidnapping or abducting; (vi) 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.
If B attempts to horsewhip A in such a manner as to cause grievous hurt to A. A draws a pistol. B persists in the assault. A, believing in good faith that he can by no other means prevent himself from being horsewhipped shoots B dead. A is guilty of no offence.
A husband noticed another man trying to rape his wife who was trying to get out of his clutches. The husband gave a quick succession of lathi blows resulting in the death of the man and rescued his wife. It was held that the husband acted in exercise of his right of private defence which he did not exceed.
Under this section, the person claiming the right of private defence must be under bona fide apprehension or fear that death or grievous hurt would otherwise be the consequence of the attack on him if he did not defend himself. The accused may not even wait till the causing of the grievous injury.
An intruder (the deceased) armed with knife attacked the accused. Accused managed to get hold of the knife held by the deceased and in order to save himself he inflicted injuries on deceased. In these circumstances the accused acted in exercise of right of private defence of person.
Whether apprehension was reasonable or not is a question of fact depending on the weapons used, etc. It may be noted here that mere abduction is not an offence and, therefore, cannot give rise to any right of private defence.
An attempt by a husband to abduct his wife forcibly is an unlawful act and she is justified in using force to resist the attempt in self-defence under Section 100. When a woman was being abducted, even though by her husband, and there was an assault on her and she was being compelled by force to go away from her paramour’s house, the paramour and his brother would have the right of private defence of the body against an assault by her husband with an intention of abducting her by force and the right would extend even to the causing of death.
Again where it was found that : (1) the land was in possession of the accused persons; (2) paddy crop had been grown by the accused persons and the same was ready for harvesting; (3) the deceased and their people were the aggressors; and (4) when the accused persons tried to resist the attempt of the deceased and their group in the matter of harvesting of the paddy crop, two of the accused persons were badly beaten up and they suffered grievous injuries and there was a further finding that these two accused were first injured by the aggressors, the Supreme Court held that the accused were entitled in the exercise of the right of private defence of the body to cause death.
The party of the deceased was armed with sharp cutting instruments by the use of which injuries on the two accused persons had been inflicted. The blows were on a vital part of these two accused persons. If there was no resistance offered it was very likely that with some further blows death would have occurred so as to give rise the first contingency indicated in Section 100. Grievous hurt had been caused which gave rise to the second contingency.
In this connection it is quite significant to note that it has been the consistent view of the Supreme Court of India that where the right of private defence of person is exceeded it loses its credit and no protection of Section 100 can be availed.
However, it indicates the absence of pre-plan on the part of accused or person proved to have exceeded the right of private defence of person.
In Rampbal v. State of Haryana, there was no prior enmity between two groups but the whole incident developed all of a sudden. In this process the accused sustained many injuries on his body and the same were unexplained by the prosecution.
The single act of the accused caused death of deceased. The Apex Court held that such act must be taken to have been caused in exercise of right of private defence of person and benefit of doubt must be given to the accused.
The fact situation involved in Buta Singh v. State of Punjab is more instructive in this regard. There the deceased and his companions had gone to the disputed field to have it tilled. But their efforts were frustrated by the son of the accused.
They were annoyed and enraged. They, therefore, went to the ‘dera’ (camp) of the accused and launched an attack. The accused and his wife fought to repel the attack and in the course of the incident both sides sustained injuries and one of the members of the attacking party died.
It was held that the accused could not be said to have exceeded the right of private defence for the obvious reason the accused could not have weighed in golden scales in the heat of the moment the number of injuries required to disarm his assailants who were armed with lethal weapons’.
Discussing Section 100 of the Penal Code the Supreme Court, in Suresh v. State of Haryana, has held if the assault is likely to cause death or grievous hurt ,the accused person has a right of private defence which can extend even to cause death of the attacking party.