Civil Procedure Code (CPC)

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Law abiding citizen entitled to kill aggressor in self defence: SC

In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has ruled that a law-abiding citizen is entitled to kill the aggressor, who poses a grave and imminent threat to his life and property and is not supposed to run away like a coward for safety, when he has reasonable apprehension that his life is under threat.

A bench comprising Justices Dalbeer Bhandari and Asok Kumar Ganguly, while acquitting a person of the charges of murder, said on January 15 that when enacting Section 96 to 106 of the IPC, accepting from its penal provisions, certain classes of acts done in good faith for the purpose of repelling unlawful aggressions, the Legislature clearly intended to arouse and encourage the manly spirit of self-defence amongst the citizens, when faced with grave danger.

The law does not require a law abiding citizen to behave like a coward, when confronted with a imminent unlawful aggression.

As repeatedly observed by this court, there is nothing more degrading to the human spirit than to run away in face of danger.

Right of private defence is thus designed to serve a social purpose and deserves to be fostered within the prescribed limit, they said.

Justice Bhandari writing a 41-page judgment for the bench, further noted that the right of private defence is recognised in all free, democratic and civilised countries and self-preservation is the basic human instinct and is duly recognised by the criminal jurisprudence of all civilised countries.

Laying down ten guidelines, where right of self-defence is available to a citizen, but also cautioned that in garb of self-defence, no one can be allowed to endanger or threaten the lives and properties of others or for taking personal revenge.

The apex court acquitted one Darshan Singh from Punjab, who had killed Gurcharan Singh in self-defence on July 15, 1991.

Father of Darshan Singh was attacked with a gandasa on his head and when Gurdish Singh proceeded to attack Darshan Singh, Darshan Singh open fired in self-defence and in the process Gurcharan Singh was killed.

The apex court, while setting aside the judgment of Punjab and Haryana High Court convicting Darshan Singh, restored the order of the trial court recording his acquittal. His father Bakhtawar Singh died during the pendency of his appeal.

The apex court concluded by saying that a person, who is under imminent threat is not expected to use force exactly required to repel the attack and his behaviour cannot be weighed in golden scales.

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