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  • Writer's picturePriyansha Mohanty

Can you kill someone and still not be legally guilty?Know how!

There is that one moment in everybody's life, where they just want to kill someone out of aggression but control themselves keeping courts, judges and punishments in mind. The primary object of a law is to maintain peace and order Do you know there are circumstances defined in law where you can even kill a person and go unpunished? Let's see when, where and how of it.

1. What is private Defence?

‘Private Defence’ or ‘Self Defence’, in the eyes of law permits the use of reasonable

force to protect oneself or one’s property, which simply means you can use force(which is otherwise a crime) against someone who is harming you or your property.

2. What is Right of Private Defence?

It is the duty of an individual to first help and protect oneself when being threatened

or harmed. Furthermore, the act of private defence solely depends on if the apprehension of danger is real and reasonable.

It serves as a social purpose, where one can practically take law in his own hands to

defend oneself or property or that of others. It is clearly defined in section 96 of

Indian Penal Code which states that “Nothing is an offence which is done in the

exercise of the right of private defence.”

3. Why is Right of Private Defence defined under general exception of criminal law?

General exceptions are mentioned in criminal law because in certain acts there is

absence of Means Rea which implies there is an absence of the intention or knowledge

of wrong doing that constituteswrongdoing a part of the crime, ba,sically it is the mental element of a person’s intention to commit a crime.

Therefore, it can be affirmed that the act of Private Defence is an immediate action

occurred due to the independent compelling circumstances.

4. Who can exercise this exception mentioned under criminal law?

The Right of Private Defence as the name suggests is an act of defence and not of an

offence. Therefore, every individual having a fair reason to believe that he is being harmed can exercise this right.

Section 97 of IPC limits exercise of the Right of Private Defence to the extent of

absolute necessity (you can take the use of private defence only in extreme necessities). This section divides the right onto two parts. The section states as ‘Every person has a right to defend

1. the right of private defence of person and

2. the right of private defence of property’.

Right of Private Defence of Person

An individual can defend or protect his own body, and the body of any other person,

against any wrong affecting such human body.

To understand, Ram can use private defence if he is being physically harmed by Ravana, and Ram can also use it if Sita is being physically harmed by Ravana.

Right of Private Defence of Property

Any individual can defend or protect his own property whether movable or

immovable or property of any other individual, against any act which is considered to

be crime defined under IPC , for example, theft, robbery, trespass, misappropriation.

To understand, you can use private defence against a person who is destroying/breaking/taking away etc your property, and you can also use private defence against a person who is doing the same to someone else's property.

5. Who can one exercise it against?

Any individual having the fear of being harmed by another is allowed to use force to

ward-off the immediate danger to his or someone else’s person or property.

Section 98 of IPC even includes a minor, an insane, or an intoxicated person as a wrongdoer. Generally, these categories of people escape judicial sanction, but when it comes to rivate defence there is no escape.

Example: P, a person under the influence of madness, attempts to kill S, another

person. P is responsible for no offence. But S has the same right of private defence

which he would have if P was sane.

6. When can one not use the Right of Private Defence?

An individual cannot use his right of private defence against such acts:

(a) which do not have an immediate and reasonable apprehension of danger;

(b) if such act is performed/ attempted to be performed by any public servant;

(c) the act performed or attempted to be performed by the direction or orders of any

public servant,

(d) in good faith or good intention,

(e) during the course of the duty of the public servant

(f) if you have time to take help from the public authorities,i.e., police

7. Is Right of Private Defence an unlimited or an absolute right? If not,

then to what extent you can exercise it?

No, the Right of Private Defence is not an unlimited right. Necessity needs no law.

The Right of Private Defence has to be exercised directly in proportion to the extent

of aggression. That means if someone slaps you, you can in the name of private defence can at max slap him twice or push him, but not kill him.

8. Can you kill a person while exercing your right to private defence?

The Right of Private Defence can save a person from guilt even if he causes the death

of another person.

9. In which situation can you kill a person without being guilty?

Section 100 of IPC authorises a person to take away life in exercise of his Right of

Private Defence against body.

In regards to human body:

(a) An act where the understanding is that death is will be the only consequence.

(b) Grevious hurt

(c) rape/attempt to rape

(d) An act performed with the intention of satisfying unnatural lust/desire.

(e) A wrong committed with the intention of kidnapping or seizing.

(f) An act performed with the intention of wrongfully imprisoning a person without

any source of help from public authorities.

(g) Acid attack/attempt to acid attack.

In regards to property:

Section 103 of IPC authorises a person to take away life in the exercise of his Right

of Private Defence against the property.

(a) Robbery (an act performed with the intention of stealing).

(b) House-breaking.

(c) Mischief by fire or any explosive substance committed on any building, tent or

the vessel, any building used as human dwelling or as a place of worship or as a

a place for the custody of property.

(d) Theft, mischief or house-trespass, under such circumstance which may cause

death or severely hurt if such right of private defence is not exercised.

(e) Mischief or any explosive substance committed on

(f)Any property intended to use for the purpose of government or any local authority.

(g) Any railway stores.

(f) Any transport vehicle.

10. Can someone risk an innocent life while exercising his Right of Private Defence?

Yes, someone can risk an innocent life while exercising his Right of Private Defence,

as there always lies a possibility of harming some innocent in the process of

defending oneself. If during the process of defending oneself, one knowingly or

unknowingly harms the innocent then that individual will not be held liable for such


Example: If a person is attacked by a mob who attempts to kill him, he cannot

possibly exercise his Right of Private Defence without firing on the mob and he

cannot fire without the risk of not harming innocent lives present in the mob.

Therefore, such individual commits no offence if by firing in his self-defence, harms

the life of any innocent.

11. In a valid circumstance, till what time the right continues?

The right continues till the danger is present, You cannot act after a cooling period, or after the danger is over.

Example: A threatens to kill B and pointed a gun towards him. Meanwhile, C, a close friend of A came in between and stopped A after which A returned to his home. If B, now attacks or attempts to do so then he will be held liable for such act and will not be given shelter under Private Defence.

In case of property an individual can exercise his right of private defence as soon as he senses danger to his property or someone else’s property.

In case of Theft the right continues till:

a) The property has been recovered

b) The offender has surrendered

c) Any protection has been provided by the public authorities.

In case of Robbery the right continues till:

d)The person causes or attempts to cause death, hurt, or wrongfully confines another

e) If the fear of the same continues.

In case of Criminal trespass and Mischief the right continues till:

f) Till the time the person creates violence and mischief in that particular area

g) Till the time he has not left the area of another

In case of House breaking by night the right continues till:

h) A person can continue using his right of private defence till the offence of

house breaking continues.

The above rights cannot be exercised as soon as the above conditions end in each


Law will not be able to help someone who is not capable of helping oneself

when something wrong happens to them. Therefore, subject to limitations

and conditions, it is a right of every individual.

Happy Awareness!!

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