- In Common Law, assault is a tort, and in criminal law, it is an offence.
- Section 351 of IPC defines assault. It is an act of threat by one person to cause harm to another person.
- Mere words do not amount to an assault. The apprehension of the use of criminal force must be from the person making any gesture or preparation.
- To constitute the offence under Section 354, mere knowledge is sufficient without any deliberate intention.
Assault is an act of one person, which causes another person a reasonable apprehension of the infliction of a criminal force against him. In Common Law, assault is a tort, and in criminal law, it is an offence. However, in both cases, assault is an act of threat by one person to cause harm to another person.
Assault is classified, as an offence under Chapter XVI of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Section 351 of the IPC reads about the assault as –
“When anyone makes any gesture, or any preparation intending or knowing it to be likely that such gesture or preparation will cause any person present to apprehend that he who makes that gesture or preparation is about to use criminal force to that person, is said to commit an assault.”
This Section states that mere words do not amount to an assault. However, certain gestures, expressions, and preparations may amount to an assault.
A.C. Cama v. H.F. Morgan (1864) 1 BHC- In this case, the Court held that the usage of words cannot be considered as assault if the effect of the words shows party threatening has no present intention to use immediate criminal force.
Essentials of Assault
Any gesture or preparation
The apprehension of the use of criminal force must be from the person making any gesture or preparation.
Reasonable apprehension means when a person feels that he is likely to get hurt or injured.
Intention or Knowledge
To constitute an offence of assault there must be either-
i. The intention to cause harm to the other person or
ii. The accused must have the knowledge of the harm apprehended.
1. Stephens v. Myers (1830) 4 Cand P:172 E.R. 735
The plaintiff and the defendant were discussing something in a meeting. Soon the meeting took an ugly turn. The defendant held the plaintiff’s hand and clenched his fist saying, that he will throw him out. The Court held that it was an act of assault.
2. Rupabati v. Shyam AIR 1958 Cut 710
The Court held that causing hurt does not necessarily become an assault. Threatening a person can also become an assault.
Punishment of Assault Based On A Grave And Sudden Provocation
Section 352 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for the punishment in cases of assault or use of criminal force based on a grave and sudden provocation. A person shall be punished, with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to 3 months, or a fine, which may extend to five hundred Rupees or both.
Exception- Assault or use of criminal force made under grave and sudden provocation falls under the category of exception. Section 352 states that whether the provocation was grave and sudden enough to mitigate the offence is a question of fact.
Assault to Deter Public Servant
Assault or Criminal Force to deter a public servant from the discharge of his duty comes under Section 353 of IPC. The public servant must be acting in the discharge of a duty imposed by law on him. A person is punishable with imprisonment for a term, which may be, extended up to two years, or a fine, or both.
Narain, (1875) 7 NWP 209- In this case, the accused resisted a public officer who attempted to search a house. In the absence of a proper written order authorizing the officer to do so, it was held that no offence was committed under this Section.
Assault with intent to Outrage Modesty
Assault or Criminal Force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty comes under Section 354 of IPC. Mere knowledge is also sufficient without any deliberate intention. A person shall be imprisoned for a term, which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable for a fine.
Vishaka Vs State of Rajasthan, AIR 1997 SC 3011- In this case, the SC held that the offence relating to modesty cannot be treated as trivial. To constitute the offence under Section 354, mere knowledge is sufficient without any deliberate intention.
State of Punjab Vs Major Singh, AIR 1967 SC 63- In this case, a question was raised before the Supreme Court, whether a modesty of seven and half months old child can be outraged? The Court's view was in the affirmative.
Assault with Intent to Disrobe a Woman
Any man who assaults or uses criminal force on any woman with intent to disrobe would be liable under Section 354B of IPC. A person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to a fine.
Assault with Intent to Dishonour a Person
A person who assaults or uses criminal force on any person with the intent to dishonor a person would be liable under Section 355 of IPC. A person would not be liable under this Section if another person gives a grave and sudden provocation. A person is punishable with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years or with a fine or both.
Altaf Mian (1907) 27 AWN 186- In this case, an accused, while under trial, struck a Sub-Inspector, who was in the witness box giving evidence against him. The Court held him guilty of this offence.
Assault in Attempt to commit theft
A person who assaults another person to commit to attempting theft on any property, which that person is carrying or wearing, would be liable under Section 356 of IPC. A person is punishable with imprisonment, for a term, which may extend to two years or with a fine or both.
Assault in Attempting Wrongful Confinement
A person who assaults or uses criminal force to any person with an intention to wrongfully confine that person would be liable under Section 357 of IPC. A person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with a fine up to Rs 1000 or both.
Assault on Grave Provocation
A person who assaults any person on grave and sudden provocation given by that person would be liable under Section 358 of IPC. Under this Section, a person shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term, which may extend to one month or fine up to Rs 200 or both.
Criminal assault cases are brought by the State, not by the injured party. Usually, the victim of an assault reports the incident to the police. After that, the police officials investigate. If they discover evidence of the assault, they arrest the suspect and charge him or her with assault. The State then examines the police evidence and decides if there is sufficient evidence to file formal charges in Court. If so, the State files an assault charge against the offender. The defendant may then face a trial. If found guilty, the defendant may be, sentenced to prison or other penalties.