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Indian Case Summary

State Of Orissa vs Bhagaban Barik on 2 April, 1987 – Case Summary

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In the case of the State of Orissa vs Bhagaban Barik on 2 April 1987, the Supreme Court of India delivered a judgment that has been a subject of legal discourse. The case revolved around the application of Section 79 and Section 304 Part II of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the interpretation of ‘mistake of fact’ and ‘good faith’.

Facts of the Case

The incident occurred when the deceased was returning from the house of PW 2 after reciting Bhagbat, a religious event, where some other villagers, including the respondent, were also present. As the deceased reached near the house of the respondent, he was assaulted by the respondent. On hearing a hue and cry, several villagers, including PWs. 2, 3, 4, and 5, ran to the place and found the deceased lying on the ground in a pool of blood with a head injury. The respondent, along with his mother and wife, were tending to the deceased and wiping out blood. The deceased told the villagers that the respondent had assaulted him.

The respondent stated that during the day time, his bell-metal utensils had been stolen, and he was keeping a watch for the thief. He saw a person coming inside his premises and thinking him to be a thief, he dealt a lathi blow but subsequently discovered that it was the deceased. The deceased also told his wife that he had been assaulted by the respondent. On the basis of the evidence on record, the trial court convicted and sentenced the respondent under s. 304 Part II of the IPC.

Issues

The primary issue in this case was whether the respondent had acted in private defence of his property, believing the deceased to be a thief, and whether the right of private defence was available to him. The court also had to determine whether the respondent’s mistake of fact and good faith were established, and whether s. 79 was attracted or conviction under s. 304 Part II was justified.

Court’s Observations and Judgment

The Supreme Court observed that the judgment of acquittal entered by the High Court was apparently erroneous and had caused a manifest miscarriage of justice. The court was surprised that the High Court had given credence to the defence plea of mistake of fact under s. 79 of the IPC 1860.

The court held that under s. 79 of the IPC, although an act may not be justified by law, yet if it is done under a mistake of fact, in the belief of good faith that it is justified by law, it will not be an offence. The question of good faith must be considered with reference to the position of the accused and the circumstances under which he acted. In view of s. 52 of the IPC, “good faith” requires not logical infallibility but due care and attention. The question of good faith is always a question of fact to be determined in accordance with the proved facts and circumstances of each case.

However, the court found that there was a complete absence of good faith on the part of the respondent. The court observed that the respondent and the deceased had strained relations, and the respondent was waiting for an opportunity to settle the account when he struck the deceased with the lathi blow. There was no occasion for him in the circumstances proved to have believed that he was striking at a thief. Even if he was a thief, that fact by itself would not justify the respondent dealing a lathi blow on the head of the deceased.

The court concluded that the respondent must face the consequences. Although it could not be said from the circumstances appearing that the respondent had any intention to kill the deceased, he must in the circumstances be attributed with knowledge when he struck the deceased on the head with a l

athi that it was likely to cause his death. Therefore, the respondent was convicted under s. 304 Part II of the IPC and sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for three years.

Analysis and Implications

The court’s judgment in this case provides a detailed interpretation of ‘mistake of fact’ and ‘good faith’ under the IPC. The court emphasized that the question of good faith is always a question of fact to be determined in accordance with the proved facts and circumstances of each case. The court also clarified that even if a person is mistaken about a fact, that fact by itself would not justify an act that results in harm to another person.

The court’s decision also underscores the importance of the principle of due care and attention in determining whether an act was done in good faith. The court held that ‘good faith’ requires not logical infallibility but due care and attention. This means that a person cannot claim to have acted in good faith if they did not take due care and attention in their actions.

This case also highlights the limitations of the right of private defence. The court held that even if the respondent believed that the deceased was a thief, that belief by itself would not justify the respondent dealing a lathi blow on the head of the deceased. This suggests that the right of private defence cannot be used as a justification for causing harm to another person, especially when there is no immediate threat to one’s life or property.

In conclusion, the judgment in the State of Orissa vs Bhagaban Barik case provides valuable insights into the interpretation and application of ‘mistake of fact’, ‘good faith’, and the right of private defence under the IPC. It underscores the importance of due care and attention in determining whether an act was done in good faith and highlights the limitations of the right of private defence.