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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The imminence and the importance of the Indian Penal Code with regards to its history is noticeable and of much use.
  • Section 491 talks about how people can help others in need even if they need to sacrifice and/or maybe downsize their own wants.
  • A major discussion around a vital case named Harihar Nath Garg v. State of M.P. which has helped this S. 491 to be a lot to be more fruitful.
  • The linking between the breach of contract and S.491 plays an important part when understood carefully.

INTRODUCTION

The Indian Penal Code is the Republic of India's official criminal code. It is a comprehensive code that addresses every aspect of criminal law. It cameinto effect in all British Presidencies in 1862, although it did not apply to Princely States, which had their own courts and legal systems. Indian Penal Code is one of the most unique and distinctive criminal codes, which provides for a range of crimes, their scope, nature and punishment, and is best used by the judiciary, legal professionals, academics, and law students and students. Indian Penal Code is indirectly borrowed from Jeremy Bentham, a renowned legal reform lawyer. The basic premise of the material code was heavily influenced by English law as well as elements of the Code of Napoleon (1804) and the Louisiana Civil Code (1825). The rule is generally recognized as a well-formed revolutionary rule.

HISTORY OF IPC

The First Law Commission, chaired by Thomas Babington Macaulay, drafted the first version of the Indian Penal Code. The proposal was based on a straightforward codification of English law, with components borrowed from the Napoleonic Code and the Louisiana Civil Code of 1825.
The initial draft of the Code was given to the Governor-General in Council in 1837, but it took another 2 decades for changes and amendments to take place. In 1850, the entire code was completed and delivered to the Legislative Council in 1856. Due to the Indian Revolt of 1857, it took longer to be enacted in the British India.
After several changes and amendments by Barnes Peacock, who would go on to become the first Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, the code cameinto effect on January 1st, 1860.

For the most part, until the arrival of the British, Indian penal law was Muhammedan law. Although the East India Company did not interfere with the country's criminal law for the first few years of its administration, the Company did so for the first time in 1772, during Warren Hastings' administration, and the British Government did alter the Muhammedan law from time to time until 1861. The Indian Penal Code did not come into effect until 1862. The administration of Muslim criminal law in India lasted for a long time and gave rise to a large number of terminologies used in the Indian legal lexicon.

SECTION 491 IN THE INDIAN PENAL CODE

THE SECTION

“Breach of contract to attend on and supply wants of helpless person.—Whoever, being bound by a lawful contract to attend on or to supply the wants of any person who, by reason of youth, or of unsoundness of mind, or of a disease or bodily weakness, is helpless or incapable of providing for his own safety or of supplying his own wants, voluntarily omits so to do, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both.”

MEANING

“Breach of contract to attend on and supply wants of helpless person.—Whoever, being bound by a lawful contract to attend on or to supply the wants of any person who, by reason of youth, or of unsoundness of mind, or of a disease or bodily weakness, is helpless or incapable of providing for his own safety or of supplying his own wants, voluntarily omits so to do, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both.”

This provision provides for a violation of the contract to visit and meet the needs of a sanctioned defenseless person. It provides that those who are legally obligated to visit or provide for the needs of any person, who because of their youth is mentally incapacitated, sick or weakened, defenseless or incapable of ensuring his safety or satisfying his needs, voluntarily refrains from doing so, shall be punished by simple or severe imprisonment for up to three months or a fine of up to two hundred rupees, or both.

Offence Description Punishment provided Cognizable/Non-Cognizable
Being compelled to attend to or satisfy the needs of a vulnerable individual due to age, mental disorder, or illness, and voluntarily refusing to do so. Imprisonment for 3 months, or fine of 200 rupees, or both                                                                                                                     Non-Cognizable                                                                                                                                                               
Bailable/Non-Bailable                                       Trial Court Details                                         Compoundable/Non-Compoundable  
Bailable                                                                   Any Magistrate                                        Non-Compoundable                              
Compoundable by Whom                                        Concerned Ministry                                     Concerned Department                          
Non-Compoundable                                              Ministry of Home Affairs                                 Department of Internal Security               

AN IMPORTANT CASE- Harihar Nath Garg v. State Of M.P.

To explain this Section elaborately, let’s have a look at an vital case of Dr. Harihar Nath Garg v. State Of M.P.

Here, the facts of the case are that led to the initiation of the criminal case was that several railway employees filed a complaint that a jeep from a civil hospital drove up to the station, from where Sanderlal and Pavan, along with others, got off the bus and threw the body of one, namely Gasia, who soon died at the station and returned again. The applicant was currently working as a doctor at the Civil Hospital. It was assumed that the deceased went to the hospital for treatment. He was 80 years old, he suffered from leprosy, and the applicant threw him without medical assistance at the station. The deceased died without proper treatment. A complaint was filed with the police. Based on the complaint, a case was registered against the current petitioner. The current petitioner is a public servant. The prosecution of the present petitioner is competent. He asked the Government to grant permission to prosecute the applicant for an offence under Section 491 of the IPC.

Here the counsel had argued that insofar the applicant had insisted that the prosecution would only amount to civil negligence and not criminal liability under Section 491.

The applicant's lawyer also argued that there was no evidence that the applicant had refused to examine the patient and that he drew attention to the allegations contained in Section 161 of the CrPC. A statement by Devendra Kumar Tyaga, Ramkishan, Parmal Singh and Narendra Singh was considered from which it is clear that the deceased was thrown into the railway station. He was taken to the railway station in a jeep belonging to the hospital, where the applicant is a doctor. The question of whether the dead person was saved after treatment is not relevant in this case, since doctors cannot be held responsible for the death of a patient if handled with reasonable care. Misdiagnosis or treatment cannot be grounds for persecution of a doctor if he is attentive to the patient. But in this case, it is argued that the doctor was unable to cure an 80-year-old patient with leprosy.

Regarding the issue of confirming the denial of treatment, the village of Shadkhor was a small village where nothing was recorded to suggest that another doctor was appointed at the Civil Hospital. He was certainly responsible for such negligence. There is evidence that the deceased was taken to a government hospital jeep station. The next session concluded that the 304A charge was brought after an assessment of the evidence.

All these facts constitute a preliminary charge against the present applicant. For this reason, the court then correctly formulated the charge against him about 304A, IPC.

In view of all these facts, the petition was denied. The charge against the current applicant for violation of Section 491, IPC was dropped, while part of the charge of falsification of Section 304A, IPC remained in force.

INDIAN CONTRACT ACT AND ITS BREACH

Contracts could be verbal (oral), written, or a combination of both. Some types of contracts, such as real estate sales or finance agreements, must be in writing. A written contract may include a standard-form contract or a letter of confirmation of the contract. Oral agreements are based on the good faith of all parties and are difficult to prove. If possible, one should ensure that your business agreements are in writing to avoid problems when trying to prove a contract. Whether a contract is oral or written, it must contain the four elements required to be legally binding.

Required Elements of a Contract

For a contract to be legally binding, it must contain four basic elements:

  • Offer
  • Acceptance
  • Intent to create a legal relationship
  • Consideration (usually cash).


Similarly, one cannot come into a contract with someone that’s of unsound mind. So, when you look into Indian Contract Act’s Section 11 which talks about who are competent to contract, we see that:

“Every person is competent to contract who is of the age of majority according to the law to which he is subject, and who is of sound mind and is not disqualified from contracting by any law to which he is subject.”

Section 74 of the Act concerns a situation when the parties to a contract agree that the contract itself provides for a penalty for breach of contract, that is, compensation for damage. The main principle behind this article is to promote certainty in business contracts which determines that damage not exceeding the amount specified in the contract must be delivered to the injured party in the event of a breach of the contract, and provides that such losses must be delivered to the injured party regardless of the damage. Section 74 distinguishes between actual preliminary estimates of damages and penalties. The penalty will be the amount of money prescribed to deter the person from breaking the contract. When the contractual obligation is an obligation, the anti-penalty rule does not apply to the amount owed. Interest payable from the date of default will be construed as a penalty. Most importantly, the court has no right to call into question the amount that the parties agreed on as damages.

CONCLUSION

The distinction between alleged damages and fines is essential in asserting rights in court.
Therefore, in the end, one understands that a person, who in accordance with a compulsion under a legal contract, must take care of or provide for the needs of any person who, due to his youth, is mentally ill, or sick, or physically weak, defenseless or unable to ensure his own safety or to meet their own needs, but does not do so voluntarily, they will be sentenced to imprisonment which could vary as per the court and judge.


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