Section 120A

This article is authored by Anvita Bhardwaj, from Symbiosis Law School, Noida. This article talks about two major concepts of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Introduction

Majority of the criminal cases registered are classified under “Hurt” and are punishable under Section 323, Section 324 and Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). ‘Hurt’ is a crucial element and is found in mostly all offences under IPC. To cause ‘Hurt’ means to inflict an injury, cause pain, cause damage to or maim a person. One can use the phrase ‘be detrimental to’ instead of using so many synonyms to describe the concept. There are many varying degrees of hurt under the IPC ranging from simple hurt to grievous hurt; the offences are punishable according to their gravity. 

Body pain emanating from the contact due to aggravated assault is described as hurt. This has been defined under Section 319 of the IPC. As per this section, whoever causes bodily ache, disease or disorder to another person is said to cause hurt. Emotional or mental pain is not included in the ambit of this section. It is not important for the injury to be visible. Even the time period for which bodily pain is suffered is immaterial. 

Section 323 lays down the punishment for causing hurt. For the prosecution to prove an offence under Section 323, three essential ingredients should be present:

  1. Accused has caused hurt to the victim.
  2. The hurt caused was voluntary in nature.
  3. The same offence is not covered under Section 334 of the IPC.

Once these conditions are met beyond a reasonable doubt, the convict either faces a year of imprisonment or has to pay a 1000 rupees fine, or both. Whereas, Section 324 of the IPC describes the punishment for an offence of voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous means or weapons.

Simple hurt

According to Section 319, any person who inflicts bodily pain, disease or disorder to another is liable for causing hurt. Section 321 talks about voluntarily causing hurt to another. These offences are punishable under Section 323 of the IPC.

Bodily pain

Bodily pain is any physical pain caused to a person by another. It does not have to be visible to the naked eye. The pain inflicted cannot be mental or emotional in nature. The intensity of pain is not an element essential to constitute causing simple hurt to someone. The time duration for which the injury is endured is also immaterial. Even pulling the hair of a girl is an act of causing harm. In the case State v. Ramesh Dass (2015), the accused attacked a woman in a hospital by pulling her hair and pushing her to the ground. He also hit her on her head with his hand. He was convicted under Section 323(causing hurt) and Section 341(wrongful restraint) of the IPC.

Disorder or infirmity 

Infirmity is a bad state of mind, a state of mental terror, intellectual impairment or hysteria. Under Section 319, a person who causes this to another causes harm to him. It might be either temporary or permanent. It interferes with the proper functioning of organs. This can be administered to another person by giving him poison or a toxic substance. In the case, Jashanmal Jhamatmal v. Brahmanand Swarupanand (1994), the accused was evicted from the apartment. To avenge the same, he tried vacating the others from there and confronted the owner’s spouse with a pistol in hand.  

Disease

The communication of disease from one person to another through the way of touch would also constitute hurt. However, the idea of this is very unclear with respect to venereal diseases. For instance, a prostitute who communicates a sexually transmitted disease to another is not liable under Section 323 but under Section 269 (a negligent act which is likely to spread infection of any disease dangerous to the life of another). This was held in Raka v. Emperor.

Intention or knowledge

Knowledge and intention are important aspects of causing hurt. For example, an individual who voluntarily sets out to shock a person with a weak heart and succeeds in doing so is said to have caused harm. Harm is not always severe. It does not always cause hurt or grievous hurt. However, the accused will still be liable for causing harm even if the harm has not resulted in death or grievous injury. In the case, Marana Goundan v. R (1941), the accused had kicked the deceased in the abdomen once and it resulted in his death. This had happened when the accused was demanding back the money which the deceased owed to him. He was convicted under Section 323 as neither did he have the knowledge that kicking at the abdomen is likely to cause death nor was it his intention to cause death. Section 321 of the IPC defines the offence of voluntarily causing harm. Not only does the offence depend on the act or omission (actus reus), but also on the intention (mens rea). Section 319 defines the actus reus which might constitute an offence under Section 323, whereas Section 321 defines the necessary mens rea for the same.    

Causing hurt or grievous hurt using dangerous weapons 

Grievous hurt

Certain types of hurt fall under the ambit of grievous hurt under Section 320 of the IPC. Only the following kinds of injuries are termed “grievous”: 

1.

Emasculation;

2.

Permanent Injury to eyesight or either of the eye;

3.

Permanent deafness or injury to either of the ear;

4.

Privation of any joint (Loss of limb);

5.

Impairing of limb; 

6.

Permanent disfiguration of head or face;

7.

Fracture or dislocation of bone or both; 

8.

Any hurt which risks life or which causes the victim to be during the time of twenty days in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits.

Section 322 of the IPC identifies the deliberate causation of grievous hurt. A person will not be liable for causing grievous hurt if he does not have the intention of causing hurt or does not realise that his act is likely to cause grievous hurt. In cases of grievous hurt, there must be proof or indication that the accused had planned or had the knowledge that he is not only going to cause hurt to a person but also inflict grievous hurt on him/her. It must be showcased that if the individual does not know that he is causing grievous hurt, he is still aware of inflicting terrible pain on another.   

Section 320 indicates grievous hurt, which brings out specially mentioned explicit wounds. These wounds are related to the major sense organs and crucial parts of the body. Section 326 basically depicts an aggravating type of hurt. Under this section, the offence is caused by the use of weapons used for firing, blades used for wounding or cutting or other dangerous weapons, that might probably cause death. Explosives, destructive substances or fire and flames also attract the provisions of this section. Under Section 324, the punishment for this offence is imprisonment up to three years, fine or both. Under Section 326 it may also extend to ten years. 

Essentials of Section 324 

An offence under this section needs to meet the following requirements (as held by Gujarat High Court in Criminal Application Number 3120 of 2014): 

  1. That the accused voluntarily caused hurt to another person;
  2. That such hurt was in exception to cases provided under Section 334;
  3. That such hurt was caused:

(a) by means of any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which used as a weapon of offence is likely to cause death; or

(b) by means of five or any heated substance; or (c ) by means of any poison or any corrosive substance; or

(d) by means of any explosive substance; or

(e) by means of any substance which is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or receive into the blood; or

(f) by means of any animal.

Dangerous means and weapons 

Under criminal offences, the expression, ‘dangerous weapons’ refers to a gun, or whichever article used or proposed to be used for causing the death or demise of another individual. This term is a lot more interpretative than one thinks. For example, the accused who has been held liable under this section had used the following weapons:

  • Usage of sports equipment like bats to assault someone.
  • Assaulting someone with a blade.
  • Using a firearm and pointing it at someone to assault them. 
  • Using a hatchet to hit an individual. 
  • Intentionally hitting a person or a driver with a vehicle. 

A lot of different things can be used as lethal weapons like broken jugs, hounds, instruments used for control, devices used for cultivating, rough items, boats or any other mechanized vehicles. The law has a wide scope for interpretation for this section so that legal loopholes do not result in injustice. Anything can be fundamentally used to cause a weapon. In some states, using teeth, hands, or feet may also constitute the use of a dangerous weapon. The human body is not a lethal weapon, but it is perfectly capable of causing the death of another individual. For example, causing the death of someone using methods like stifling, kicking or punching may also be attracted under this provision in extraordinary circumstances upon the discretion of the court. A vehicle definitely comes under the ambit of lethal weapons if the driver premeditates the murder or causing grievous hurt to a passerby, pedestrian or another walker.   

Additional provisions (Section 326A and Section 326B)

The Eighteenth Law Commission which was headed by Justice A. R. Lakshaman introduced Section 326 A of the IPC that criminalizes throwing or administering or attempting to throw acid on any person, irrespective of gender, with the intention of disfiguring or maiming that person and causing permanent or partial damage. The following Section, i.e., Section 326B criminalizes the attempts to throw or administer acid on any person.

Under Section 326A punishment for administering an acid attack is a minimum ten years which may extend to life imprisonment upon the Court’s discretion. The punishment for attempting to throw acid on a person is punishable with an imprisonment of 5-7 years under Section 326B irrespective of the nature of the damage caused to the victim. The victim is liable for compensation, up to Rupees 3 lakhs. The compensation should be payable in addition to the payment of the fine by the culprit. 

Conclusion 

As per the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act 2005 (CrPC), Section 324 (causing hurt by use of dangerous weapons), earlier used to qualify as a compoundable offence. It was later omitted as a compoundable offence by way of amendment. Compoundable offences are those offences which can be found under Section 320 of the CrPC. These offences are less serious in nature. These offences can be classified into two ways- (i) Offences which are compoundable with the permission of the Court and (ii) Offences which are compoundable with the permission of the court. These offences can be compromised by the victim and the accused/offender with or without the permission of the court. The offender is acquitted without any trial for a compoundable offence. As per many reports and recommendations, it was suggested that the offence under Section 324 should be made non-compoundable in nature. 

Clinical narrative confirmations like medico-legal reports on harms which are arranged by the clinical experts are significant for the courts in making their legal decisions. The kind of wounds and weapons, lawful classifications of damages and their ages must be explicitly noted in the injury reports. Medicolegal training and experiences strengthen the capabilities of the medial witnesses. In my view, to decrease the pendency of these cases, it is the obligation of the government of India to find a way to change Section 320 of Cr.P.C to compound Section 324 of IPC cases. The casualty may have gotten remuneration from the guilty party or the attitude of the parties towards one another may have changed for good. The victim is prepared to condone the offensive conduct of the accused who became humble and repentant. Criminal law should be receptive to observe such circumstances and to give a solution to end the criminal procedures regarding particular kinds of offences. That is the method of reasoning behind the compounding of offences. This will not only be helpful for the victims but will also reduce the backlog of the cases accumulated in the court. 

References


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