Know your rights in self defence

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K.P Singh, the Director General of Police (DGP) of Haryana, has said that the common man when threatened can rise in self defence. If a criminal tries to molest a woman or burn a house, a common man has the right to kill him, he said.

"If someone insults a woman or tries to kill a person, then the law empowers a common man to kill that person. This is not just the powers vested in the police, if someone is insulting any mother and sister, if somebody tries to immolate a house or shop, or if someone tries to kill a person in front of you, then a common man has been empowered by the law to kill that person,"he said.

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"However, a common man should understand his responsibilities," he added.

On that note, it is evident that we know little about our rights in the Indian Constitution when it comes to self defence. The victim usually does not resist, fearing judicial custody in case of death or any bodily harm. So, here's stating a few laws for self defence:

Self defence in rape and theft

According to the right of private defence sections 96 and 97 of the Indian Penal Code, nothing is an offence which is done in the exercise of the right of private defence. Further, according to the 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 his own body or that of any other person or against any offence affecting the human body.

Moreover, harm against property whether movable or immovable, of himself or of any other person, falling under the categories of theft, robbery, mischief and criminal trespass can also be stopped.

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According to Section 100 of the Indian Penal Code, the criminal can be fatally attacked When the right of private defence of the body extends to causing death, which includes voluntarily causing death or of any other harm to the assailant. The counter assault can be caused by an apprehension that death or grievous hurt will otherwise be the consequence of such an assault.

Self defence in kidnapping

One can attack fatally on his assailant if there is any intention of rape or kidnapping. Wrongful confinement of a person, leading to an apprehension that he will be unable to have recourse to the public authorities for release. The victim may also knock the other dead when he is apprehensive of a blow or an injury on hims, though the latter may not have inflicted any blow or injury.

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Right to private defence says, "..... 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."

In fact, the law-abiding citizen should not be a coward when confronted with an imminent unlawful aggression.

Self defence is the first step to lawfulness

Hari Singh Gour in his celebrated book on Penal Law of India (11th Edition 1998-99) aptly observed that "self-help is the first rule of criminal law. It still remains a rule, though in process of time much attenuated by considerations of necessity, humanity, and social order. According to Bentham, in his book Principles of Penal Laws' has observed "the right of defence is absolutely necessary".

It is based on the cardinal principle that it is the duty of man to help himself.

Killing in defence of a person, according to the English law, will amount to either justifiable or excusable homicide or chance medley, as the latter is termed, according to the circumstances of the case. Self defence also arises when there is a sudden quarrel in which both the parties engage, or on account of the initial provocation given by the person who has to defend himself in the end against an assault endangering life.

According to Section 99 of the Indian Penal Code the injury which is inflicted by the person exercising the right should commensurate with the injury with which he is threatened. It further states that 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.

The courts in one voice have said that it would be wholly unrealistic to expect of a person under assault to modulate his defence step by step according to attack.

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