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• Indian Penal Code is a very integral part of the legal system within our country.

• Chapter XVI of this Code, discusses offences which affect the human body and life.

• Section 320 enlists those categories of hurt, which are considered to be more severe than the other forms of hurt.

• There are eight different types of hurt mentioned under this section, namely: emasculation, loss of sight, loss of hearing, privation of a joint or member, permanent impairment of a joint or member, permanent disfiguration of the head or face, fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth, hurt which endangers someone’s life or puts them through severe body pain for a period of 20 days, or puts them in a place where they cannot perform their daily tasks.

• Concept of grievous hurt is punishable in itself as compared to simple hurt which is coupled with other offences.

• It is the list of sections from Section 326 to Section 338 which talk about the aggravated forms of this grievous hurt.

• The doctor or medical expert plays a very vital role in cases regarding this section, as they analyse the permanency or the seriousness of the injury which has been caused.


The Indian Penal Code which stands as a very crucial part of the legal system of our country can also be call as one of the rocks, on which our system, which focuses on delivering justice, stands. This code contains a variety of provisions and helps in acknowledging the type of offence that has been committed. It also contains provisions that affect human life and are put out under chapter 16 of this Code.

Out of these provisions, there are about 20 Sections that describe the offences which are related to hurt. The objective behind enacting this Code was to provide a Penal Code which was generally as well as exhaustive for our country, however, there still exist several other statutes, which are of a penal nature, which govern a variety of other offences in addition to this code. This code is extensive to the whole of India, and the punishments which are mentioned under it, can be extended to the offences which are committed within India as well as those which are committed beyond it, but they may be tried within India.

The concept of hurting or harming someone is something that is not only prohibited by law but even our religious scriptures consider it to be wrong. It is also something which is the primary part of our basic education and quality which parent always tries to imbibe in their child. If we talk about the present time, there are a large number of criminal cases in the courts of a Judicial Magistrate of First Class in our country relating to hurt, we can also not deny the fact that there would be no Criminal Court without such cases. While the code was being drafted the experts of that time felt that it was very hard to draw a line between substantial damages that were more serious in nature as compared to the others, and it was impossible to create boundaries within these. This is why some sort of hurt what assigned to be grievous when compared to the others. This article focuses on Section 320 of the Indian Penal Code which discusses the concept of grievous hurt, in detail.


As it has already been mentioned, the authors of this code found that it would be difficult to have a precise definition or even draw a line between bodily hurts that are serious in nature and those which a slight or simple but they did recognise the fact that it was very crucial even if not perfect but it would be essential and helpful to punish those who engage in causing harm to someone else. It was then decided that the hurts which are described in Section 320 of IPC word serious enough to be considered as grievous hurt. This Section speaks about 8 different kinds of hurt which have been regarded as grievous hurt. There is no particular definition of the term grievous here but it can be explained add something which is very dangerous to the body or the life of an individual. The different types of hurts are as follows:

i) Emasculation – This clause is only applicable to men and it means to render a man impotent. It stands for causing a man to be unable to perform normal sexual intercourse. However, for this particular condition, it is important that the emasculation that has been caused is permanent, for example: cutting off the penis or causing damage to the nerves which are responsible for an erection etc. This clause was inserted to counteract the practice which was very common in India for a woman to squeeze the testicles of a man at the slightest provocation. So this can also be termed as causing harm to the scrotum of a person which will leave them impotent and this impotency should no longer be temporary or curable. This was laid down in the case of ‘State of Karnataka V. Shivalingaiah '.

ii) Permanent privation of the sight of either eye – in simpler times, this stands for the loss of sight of either eye or even both the eyes. In cases like these, the loss can be partial or even complete. The gravity of the situation is measured by the harm that is caused, as an individual can be deprived of using their sight or even suffers the disfiguration of their face. Another type of eye injuries that fall under this Section are: an injury that leads to the reduction of vision of an individual, retinal detachment or even loss of eyesight which is caused because of adulterated alcohol.

iii) Permanent Privation of hearing of either ear - this is similar to the previous one, but is with respect to the ears of an individual i.e. it stands for the loss of hearing of either or even both the ears. This loss can also be either partial or complete, and even in these cases, the gravity of the situation is measured by the permanence of the injury. However, if there is a cure to the injury, then it would not reduce the gravity of the injury. In cases like these, the patient is supposed to be examined by an ENT specialist, and their findings are taken into account by the court. Some other types of this can be:

Damage in the internal part of the ear caused by a slap, or

When a quack or local cleaner pokes something into the ear in order to clean it and it ends up damaging the ear or injuries which affect the auditory nerve etc.

iv) Privation of any member or joint - there is no specific definition regarding the member or joint, in this Section of the Code. As per Section 2(h) of the Human Organ Transplant Act of 1994, a human organ is that part of the body that consists of a structured arrangement of tissues, which if it is removed in a whole sense then it cannot be replaced. While a joint is defined as a point of juncture between two bones. The permanent damage, in this case, needs to involve a type of damage that results in the permanent stiffness of the member of the joint and hinders the everyday functioning which is assigned to the human body structure.

v) Permanent impairment of the power of a member or a joint - This close is different from the one above as it discusses is the injury that is caused where there is permanent destruction or impairment of any member or joint and not the privation. The destruction that we’re talking about in this clause is the one where the power of an organ is damaged in such a way that the function of that organist permanently impaired even though that organ will remain a part of the body for example oh crushed finger or a toe etc.

vi) Permanent disfiguration of the head or face - The disfiguration mentioned in this clause stands for the change of either the configuration or the personal appearance open individual by an external injury which takes away the personal appearance of an individual from them. This might not necessarily weaken them. for example cutting of nostrils or ears or deep scars on the face etc. According to law the disfiguration of the head and the face are considered to be serious enough to be labelled as grievous injuries. In cases like these, the law does not discriminate on the basis of the gravity of the situation or the gravity of the disfiguration on the basis of the personal life of the individual or their career or age or sex etc.

vii) The fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth - the term fracture in this clause stands for the breakage of a bone while this location is a near displacement of the bone from its normal position in a joint. The fracture or the dislocation need not cause any permanent disability but this injury is labelled as a grievous hurt because of the intense pain and suffering that is caused to an individual and it can also lead to a sudden disability which can be offered temporary nature. However, when we talk about either a fracture or the dislocation of a tooth the examination of the dentist holds a lot of importance as it enables in determining the gravity of the injury. Nothing to note here is that in order to consider an injury of fracture it is not necessary that the bone should be broken into multiple pieces as it can also contain a crack but the crack should extend from the outer floor of the skull to the inner surface. What needs to be seen here is whether the cuts in the bones during the report are shallow or do they impact a certain type of break in them.

viii) The type of hurt which endangers someone’s life or results in the sufferer being in severe body pain or unable to perform their daily tasks - According to this clause any form of hurt which ends up in risking the life of an individual or results in them going through severe body pain for about 20 days or restricts them from following their ordinary tasks will be considered as a grievous hurt. This clause talks about three different classes of hurt and states that all of them are autonomous of one another. The first one is injury, it is said to endanger the life of an individual as it might put the life of the one being harmed in danger. The basic injury is not offensive or grievous because it is caused on one part of the body except if it's nature or it is done in a way where it ends up putting someone’s life in danger. There is a thin line of difference between the hurt which endangers life and injury which can probably cause someone’s death. Hurt can be extreme and substantial but it does not cause danger to somebody's life and these types of hurts are known as grievous hurts. It has also been mentioned in this clause that in cases where the impact of damage does not last for a period of 20 days then the hurt, in that case, it cannot be classified as grievous hurt.


The information that has already been mentioned above helps us in understanding that the concept of hurt is not the same as grievous hurt, under the Indian Penal Code. The points of difference between both these concepts are:

• The Injuries which are caused by grievous hurt are most specific in nature like emasculation or fracture etc. whereas the injuries which are caused in the heart add more basic like body pain, disease etc.

• There is much more risk of life in the case of grievous hurt as compared to hurt.

• Another important point is that the concept of hurt is not punishable in itself because for it to be punishable it has to be accompanied by other offences, whereas the concept of grievous is punishable in itself.

• The offensive hurt is it non-cognizable offence and it is also bailable and triable by any magistrate as compared to the offence of grievous hurt which is a cognizable and bailable offence and also is compoundable with the permission of the court.

• The punishment for the concept of hurt is given under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code while the punishment for grievous hurt is mentioned under Section 325 of the Indian Penal Code.


Apart from the conditions that have already been discussed in this article, there can be a few instances where the form of hurt is more aggravated in its nature and it is for these instances that our Indian Penal Code provides for the ways to acknowledge it and to deal with it.

It is from Section 326 onwards that these instances of aggravated circumstances have been discussed. They are:

• Section 326 (Grievous hurt with weapons) – According to this Section, the grievous hurt which has already been mentioned in Section 320 should be resulting from instruments that are used for shooting and stabbing or even cutting. It can however also arise from other weapons which are likely to cause death like explosives or poison etc. It is because that the chances of grievous injuries are much more severe under these circumstances that the punishment awarded is of a similar nature where the offender who is guilty can be punished with life imprisonment which can extend to a period of 10 years.

• Sections 327 and 329 (Hurt caused to extort property or constraint illegal acts) – According to Section 327 when an individual commits hurt for the purpose of extorting property or constraining the victim in order to commit an illegal act, then it is going to be punishable. For example, if an individual beats up a child to force the father of the child to give him money. Under this Section, the offender can force the victim or even someone who is connected to the victim to commit an act of illegal nature or to help in the facilitation of an offence, and for this, they can be sentenced to imprisonment which can extend to a period of 10 years along with fine. Moving forward to Section 329, the only difference that exists between these two Sections is that Section 329 is related to the concept of grievous hurt instead of simple hurt while the intention of the offender along with the punishment is the same.

• Section 328 (hurting by poison for committing an offence) – It is essential for this Section that the individual who is committing the offence administers poison or stupefied some other individual or gives them a drug with the intention of hurting them or for the purpose of facilitation of an offence. In this particular Section, the offence cannot arise without the intention and the punishment for this Section also is imprisonment which can extend to a period of 10 years along with a fine.

• Sections 330 and 331 (hurting in order to extort a confession or cause restoration of property) – According to Section 330, the individual committing the offence hurts another individual for the purpose of extorting a confession or information which is related to an offence or even misconduct. This particular Section generally applies to police officers who harm the accused to force them to confess their crime. Extortion in this case can also happen to extort a confession or information from some other individual. The hurt here can also take place for the purpose of constraining the victim to restore some property or valuable security and the punishment for it includes imprisonment which can extend to a period of seven years along with a fine. When we talk about Section 331 the only difference between Section 331 and Section 330 is that the former mentions the concept of grievous hurt instead of simple hurt and since grievous hurt is of a more severe nature, the punishment under this Section is also severe as it is imprisonment which can extend to a period of 10 years.

• Sections 332 and 333 (causing hurt to deter public servants) – Section 332 prohibits an individual from hurting a public servant for the purpose of deterring them from discharging their duties. For example, an individual harms a police officer to prevent him from arresting his friend. This is punishable with imprisonment which can extend to a period of three years along with a fine. When we talk about Section 333, it deals with the concept of grievous hurt rather than simple hurt and that is the reason that the punishment under this Section is imprisonment which can extend tour term of 10 years along with a fine.

• Sections 334 and 335 (hurt which is causes by provocation) – It is Section 334 which states that if an offender hurts another person who causes a sudden and grave provocation to him, however, it is important that the offender should not intend to cause hurt to any other person and the punishment for this is imprisonment for a month along with a fine of Rupees 500. Section 335 involves the concept of grievous hurt in it rather than simple hurt and that is the reason that its punishment is imprisonment which can extend to a period of four years and the fine can amount to Rupees 2000.

• Section 336 to Section 338 (causing hurt which endangers the life and personal safety of others) – Section 336 mentions an instance where an individual can cause a rash or commit and negligent act which can endanger the life of some other individual or risk their personal safety, in such cases the punishment can be imprisonment which can extend to a period of three months along with a fine of Rupees 250. When an individual causes simple hurt by committing an act that is rash and negligent in its nature then they will be punishable and their punishment can be imprisonment which can extend to a period of six months along with a fine of Rupees 500. Section 338 states that an act will be punishable if somebody causes grievous hurt to another individual and because the hurt, in this case, is more severe the punishment is too, they can be punished with imprisonment which can extend to a period of two years and the fine can amount to Rupees 1000.


There have been a variety of judgments in relation to Section 320 of the IPC which can be considered to be important when we try and study this Section. some of those judgments are:

It was in the judgement of Bawasala Mad. 1953 Cr. LJ, Kutch Where it was stated that the injury report does not prove that injuries have been caused and so it is essential that a doctor must be produced and after analysing everything he has to state whether the injury has been caused or not. it was also mentioned that the medico-legal report can be considered as admissible in the form of evidence under the Evidence Act if the doctor is dead or is not available and in such a case the compounder or the individual who was present at the time of the examination and can identify the writing of the doctor needs to be produced.

The court stated that it is not the duty of the court but the prosecution to ensure that the alleged weapon of offence if it is available then it is shown to the medical witness and then his opinion should be taken to understand whether any or even all of the injuries on the victim could have been caused with that weapon and in cases where they fail to do so, then it can cause aberration in the Court of Justice. This was stated in the case of ‘Ishwar Singh V. State of U.P. ’

There is another very important judgement which speaks about the instance where there is a conflict of opinion between two doctors and in such a case the opinion which supports the direct evidence should be accepted, this was stated in the case of ‘Piara Singh V. State of Punjab. ’

It was the very crucial case of ‘Atma Ram V. State of Punjab’ where it was stated that the court cannot be absolved of the responsibility when the decision on a criminal case is being made by forming their own conclusions regarding the nature of the injury without considering the opinion of the expert. It was stated that it is the duty of the court to see the nature and the dimension of the injury and also pay attention to the location and good damage that has been caused. It was further stated that even in those cases where the injury is described as one which can endanger someone’s life even there it is the duty of the court to apply their mind and form their own opinion regarding the nature of the injury and giving proper weightage to the factors which have been put before them.

There is another very important judgement named ‘P. Babu V. State of A.P.’ where it has been held that it is not the doctor’s duty to inquire from the patient about the actual offenders. Their duty will remain confined to conduct an inquiry as to how did the patient receive the injuries and the weapon which was used etc.


It is only when one reads the entirety of this Section that they get to see the different layers of which it is comprised. It might seem like a very simple and a sorted Section and the concept of law initially, but when you try to look at it from a different viewpoint is when you see that there is so much more to it. There is also not much discussion about how it is the judge who decides about the nature of the injury and that decision is based on the medical findings and the investigation reports which have been submitted to them. Generally, it is the extent of the heart which is caused along with the intention of the offender which is taken into account when the gravity of the situation is in question. He will also have the authority to summon a doctor who will have to depose the medical injury report in the court of law and admit that report as evidence in the case. The doctor in these cases also plays a very vital role because even their unintentional mistakes which could be very minute cost the legal system the life of an innocent.

When we talk about hurt and the concept of hurt in our legal system, a major question that arises is, why has the concept of mental hurt and psychological injuries not taken into consideration? Why is our legal system still ignorant of something which has become so crucial today?

One reason for this can be that the framers of the code could not conceive injuries of this kind at the time when the code was being drafted, but this does not explain as to why it has still not been incorporated. It explains the absence but not the acceptance.

Another very important thing to note is that this Section consists of various types of injuries to different parts of the body and these are very different in their nature and have different impacts on the body. We do understand that the seriousness of these injuries is dependent on the nature and the impact that they have on the body but what we do not understand that when we provide the same punishment for different kinds of grievous hurt irrespective of understanding the seriousness we are actually allowing for a miscarriage of justice.

It is important that we put more thought to what we are reading and understand the consequences that it can have. However, we can also not deny the fact that this Section holds a very important stand in the legal system in breaking down the offences and acknowledging them apart from granting punishments to those who commit the offences.

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