This article is written by Monesh Mehndiratta, a law student at Graphic Era Hill University, Dehradun. The article explains the provision of punishment for the crime given under Section 353 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Further, it also provides important case laws related to the offence.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
Table of Contents
Do not ever hurt or try to hurt a public officer in order to deter him from discharging his duties. It will be dangerous for you as you might end up in jail!
Yes, you heard it right! This is because you can be punished for the same. Yes, if you try to become an obstacle for public officials or servants and do not let them discharge their duties by hurting them, they can make you liable for punishment. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 recognises this as an offence under Section 353. For example, if a person accused of an offence hurts or causes grievous hurt to a police officer or a constable arresting him, he can be charged with another offence. Thus, it is important to understand what constitutes a crime under Section 353 so that we can avoid committing it even negligently.
The article, before jumping to the punishment of the offence under Section 353, explains the crime defined therein. It also provides the essential ingredients of the crime and then explains the provision for its punishment. Apart from this, the article also elaborates on important and recent case laws related to the offence and then provides punishment for other similar crimes.
Crime under Section 353 IPC defined
Section 353 deals with offences of assault or criminal force done to deter a public servant from discharge of duty. Before understanding the offence, it is important to understand the two terms used in this Section i.e., ‘assault’ and ‘criminal force’. Assault in a general sense is a threat by one person to inflict unlawful force against another person. However, Section 351 of the Code defines assault as an act of making gestures or preparations to use criminal force against a person, because of which a threat is created in the mind of victims. Thus, the essentials of assault are:
- Gestures or preparations done by a person to use criminal force against others.
- There must be intention or knowledge that such gestures or preparations will create a threat in the mind of another.
Illustration: A and B had a heated argument. As a result, A made a gesture to punch B thus creating an apprehension that he might do so. A in this case is liable for the offence of assault.
Section 350, on the other hand, deals with criminal force. In order to constitute criminal force against a person there must be:
- Use of force intentionally,
- Without the consent of a person,
- Used to commit an offence against him,
- There must be knowledge or intention to cause injury, fear or annoyance to a person against whom force is used.
Illustration: X incites a dog to spring upon Y without his consent. If X has an intention to cause injury, fear or annoyance to Y, he is said to use criminal force against him.
From the above explanation, it is clear that assault and criminal force are two important elements of offence given under Section 353. It can be said that it is an aggravated form of assault wherein a person either assaults or uses criminal force against a public servant to deter him from discharging the duties. However, if the public officer or servant is illegally doing an act or acting under an illegal order, the Section will not be applicable irrespective of the fact that he was aware of the illegality. This was held in the case of Raghunath Padhy v. State of Orissa (1956). Further, in the case of Krushna Chandra Behera v. State (1984), the excise officers searched the car of the petitioner travelling from one place to another without recording any reasons. The Orissa High Court held the search conducted was illegal and thus, the obstruction caused during the search did not attract any liability under this Section.
Illustration: A, a police officer stopped B on suspicion of carrying a weapon. In return, B put a gun on A’s head. His acts amounted to offence under Section 353 of the Code.
Essentials of crime under Section 353 IPC
The essential ingredients of an offence under Section 353 are:
- A public servant must have been assaulted or criminal force must have been used against him. Public servant is defined under Section 21 of the Code.
- The assault or criminal force must have been used while he was legally discharging his duties.
- There must be an intention to deter or prevent him from discharging his duties.
In the case of Patar Munda v. State (1957), it was held that even if a constable is off duty, he can make an arrest and if he is assaulted or criminal force is used against him while he is doing so, the person will be liable for punishment under Section 353 of the Code. In another case of Jayaseeli v. State (2010), it was observed that the main ingredient of Section 353 is that the accused should be shown to have assaulted or used criminal force against the police officer, then only a charge under this Section can be made out.
Punishment for a crime under Section 353 IPC
The offence of assault upon a public servant by causing hurt or grievous hurt in order to deter or obstruct him in the discharge of duties under Section 353 of the Code is one of the aggravated forms of assault. The offence is bailable, cognizable but non-compoundable in nature. However, it is triable by the magistrate. Any person who commits this offence will be liable for imprisonment up to 2 years or a fine, or both.
It is important to note that when the offence is committed, the public servant must have been discharging duties that are lawful and imposed upon him by law. In the case of Doraswami Pillai v. Emperor (1903), a police constable knocked at the door of the house of the accused at midnight to make sure that he was in the house as directed by law. The accused, in return, abused him and pushed him away. He also showed him the stick, indicating that he might attack. The Madras High Court observed that the acts of the constable were not reasonable and could have caused annoyance to the accused or his family along with house trespass. As a result, the accused was not held liable for the offence under Section 353. Similarly, when a village officer tried to take possession of the property because of a violation of a stay order by his superiors, any obstruction or resistance by any person was not punishable under this Section as the officer was not acting in the execution of his duties. This was held in the case of Poulose v. State (1984).
Another important point in this regard is that an assault or use of criminal force must have been used against the public servant. The snatching of ballot papers from polling officers and the act of tearing them apart amounted to the use of criminal force against the officers under this Section [Bhupinder Singh v. State of Punjab, (1997)]. However, the Patna High Court, in the case of Sri Chandrika Sao v. State of Bihar (1967), held that a mere obstruction without the use of force or assault would not amount to an offence under this Section and the person would not be punished.
Important case laws
Keshoram v. Delhi Administration (1974)
Facts of the case
In this case, some inspectors from the Municipal Corporation demanded payment of the milk tax from the appellant without any prior notice. They were under a misconception regarding the mode of action under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957. They tried to seize his buffaloes, though he did not refuse the payment. In order to save his buffaloes, the appellant resisted and gave a blow on the nose of one of the inspectors; as a result, he suffered a fracture.
Issues involved in the case
Whether the person is rightly convicted of an offence under Section 353 of the Code?
Judgment of the Court
The appellant, in this case, was convicted for an offence under Section 353 of the Code with one-year rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 400. However, the case was appealed in the Supreme Court and it was alleged that the inspectors did not exercise their powers properly and were under a misconception. Moreover, no prior notice was served for the same. The Court observed that the inspectors could not be presumed to know that notice had not been served and acted in a bona fide manner. However, it was held that the punishment given to the accused was excessive, and so the fine was set aside by the Supreme Court.
Virendra Sharma v. State (2005)
Facts of the case
In this case, the petitioner stopped the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi when he was passing through the varanda of his office. He sprinkled black paint on his face and shouted that corruption had increased during his tenure in the Municipal corporation, so his face must be blackened.
Issues involved in the case
Whether the accused is liable for punishment under Section 353 of the Code?
Judgment of the Court
The Court of Metropolitan Magistrate convicted him of rigorous imprisonment for 18 months under Section 353 and one year of rigorous imprisonment under Section 355 of the Code. The Magistrate also ordered that both punishments run concurrently. The Court of Additional Session Judges upheld the conviction, and as a result, a revision petition was filed in the Delhi High Court. The High Court held that the act done by the petitioner was done intentionally and was humiliating for the Commissioner. Such acts would have a demoralising effect on public servants, and people committing such acts must be punished. It was further held that the conviction of the petitioner in this case was proper and there was no need for interference.
P.V. Mathai v. State of Kerala (2021)
Facts of the case
In this case, the accused was charged under Section 353 of the Code for entering in Karimannoor Agriculture Officer and abusing the staff. It was alleged that he deterred the officer from discharging her duties. The accused in the case moved to High Court in respect of proceedings pending against him in the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class.
Issues involved in the case
Whether the accused be convicted in this case for an offence under Section 353 of IPC?
Judgment of the Court
The Court in the case observed that there was no evidence that the accused used force or assault to deter the officer from discharging her duties. It was only alleged that he entered the office and questioned her in a firm voice. It was observed that in order to attract liability under Section 353 IPC, the use of force or assault is an essential element. Thus, the Court ordered that all the proceedings pending against the accused be quashed in the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class.
Every person is entitled to a peaceful life without any interference or disturbance from others, but some people try to disturb us by threatening or assaulting us. This is more often experienced by public servants because many people threaten them while they are discharging their duties or doing something in lieu of their duties. The Indian Penal Code, 1860, protects the public officer or servant who is discharging his duties imposed upon him by law from such assault or use of criminal force against them. These acts are punishable under Section 353 of the Code.
The Act defines assault and criminal force under Sections 351 and 350, respectively. The use of criminal force or assault against a public servant is an aggravated form of assault. Other such forms that are punishable by the Code are assaulting or use of criminal force on women with an intention to outrage her modesty (Section 354), assault to dishonour a person (Section 355), assault to commit an offence of theft (Section 356), etc.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between assault and battery?
Assault is an act by which a threat or apprehension is created in the mind of a person that criminal force or unlawful violence might be used against him. For example, making a gesture of slap to a person amounts to assault, as it creates apprehension in his mind that he might be slapped. On the other hand, battery is an act in which a person actually applies or uses unlawful force on another person, for example, by touching a person’s clothes in an angry or hostile manner.
What is the difference between affray and assault?
Assault is an act of making gestures or preparations to use criminal force against a person, while affray, in simple terms, can be explained as a group of people fighting in a public place. The former is an offence against a person under Section 351 of the IPC, while affray is an offence against public tranquillity under Section 159 of the IPC.
What do you understand by the term ‘force’?
In simple terms, an exertion of energy causing a change in the outer world is known as force. Section 349 of the IPC defines force against human beings, which can be exercised directly or indirectly. In order to constitute force under the Section, the following ingredients must be present:
- Act causing motion,
- There must be a change in motion, or
- Cessation of motion.
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