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Indian Case Summary

Deo Narain vs The State Of U.P on 11 December, 1972 – Case Summary

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In the case of Deo Narain vs The State Of U.P on 11 December, 1972, the Supreme Court of India delivered a significant judgment that clarified the scope of the right to private defense under the Indian Penal Code (Act 45 of 1860), Sections 100 and 102.

Facts of the Case

The case arose from a clash between two parties over the possession of certain land. The appellant, Deo Narain, inflicted a fatal spear injury on the chest of the deceased during this clash. Both the trial court and the High Court found that the complainant’s party had deliberately come to forcibly prevent or obstruct the possession of the accused persons, and that such forcible obstruction and prevention were unlawful. However, while the trial court acquitted all the accused on the ground that they were exercising their right of private defense, the High Court held that the appellant exceeded his right of private defense on the sole ground that he had used his spear with greater force than was necessary.

Issues

The main issue in this case was whether the appellant had exceeded his right of private defense by using his spear with greater force than was necessary, and whether 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 superficial lathi blow on his head.

Court’s Observations

The Supreme Court held that the High Court erred in convicting the appellant on the ground that he exceeded his right of private defense. The Court clarified that the right of private defense of the body commences as soon as a reasonable apprehension of danger to the body arises from an attempt or threat to commit the offense, though the offense may not have been committed, and such right continues so long as such apprehension of danger to the body continues. The Court also emphasized that the right of private defense is available for protection against apprehended unlawful aggression and not for punishing the aggressor for the offense committed by him. It is a preventive and not a punitive right.

The Court further observed that 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 equally misconceived and cannot be supported under s. 100, I.P.C. The Court noted that during the course of a melee, like the present, the use of a lathi on the head may very well give rise to a reasonable apprehension that death or grievous hurt would result from an injury caused thereby.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court, therefore, allowed the appeal and acquitted the appellant, Deo Narain, holding that he had not exceeded his right of private defense. The Court emphasized that an average human being cannot be expected to think calmly and control his action by weighing as to how much injury would sufficiently meet the aggressive designs of his opponents at such moments.