This article is authored by Rhea Banerjee, Pursuing B.A.LL.B from Indore Institute of Law.
The Indian Penal Code marks its presence from the times when India was ruled by the Britishers, formulated in 1860 it was a legislation that consisted of all cases and punishments that a person committing an offence can be charged with. It applies to all persons who are of Indian origin and some of the exceptions of this statute are the military and armed forces who are not to be charged based on IPC as they have their martial laws.
Since the colonial period, there have been ample of amendments and changes incorporated concerning the nature of cases, jurisdiction and many more in the IPC. One of the most renowned amendment was the inclusion of section 498-A (cruelty towards wife by the husband and his relatives). There are in total 576 sections in IPC and the code has defined different categories of crime and their respective punishments too. Most of the criminal offences have been defined under this legislation and apart from IPC 1860, there are two acts which are also read together along with IPC- Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and Indian Evidence Act 1872.
The objective of this Act was to provide a universal Penal Code for India. IPC is substantive in nature and gives an overall definition of all the offences and how it is penalised (punished) under law. It is well known that India is a land of diverse cultures, traditions and customs and bringing a uniform criminal law was not an easy task, but in order to maintain peace and order, a common law of crime was required and thus IPC came into existence.
IPC is huge legislation but one must be aware of some of its important sections so that they are mindful of the wrongs committed and even complain against them in the Police stations. Let’s have an insight into some of the important provisions of IPC.
Important Sections of IPC
- Section 509
The section can be defined as “Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman – Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
This section is one of the most essential sections of IPC and the main purpose of this section is to preserve the modesty of a woman. This offence is cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable which can be tried by the Judicial Magistrate First Class and the punishment can extend to imprisonment for a term of 1 year or fine or both.
The two essential elements of this section,
- Intention to insult the modesty of a woman
- Insult should be caused by uttering some word, sounds or by making any gestures or exhibiting any object with the intention that such word or sound will be heard by the woman or intruding upon the privacy of such woman
For example, if any random person enters into a woman’s house and tries to hold her or persuade her for any sort of sexual favour or sexual connection, then this act would come under the Section 509 of IPC. In some cases, if a woman receives a letter that contains offensive language, randy and filthy suggestions, even then the woman can complain about the accused under Section 509 of IPC.
The Supreme Court stated the ingredients that institute to the essence of modesty of a woman to keep it well defined that what sort of acts can be marked as an insult to the modesty of a woman in the case of State of Punjab v. Major Singh.
The recent judgment of Kerala High Court in the case of Abhijit J.K v. the State of Kerala talked explicitly about section 509 IPC. Facts of the case were that the complainant was going to her house and was approached by a motorcyclist who invited her to accompany him on his bike and even made some sexual gesture towards her. Later on, the victim registered a complaint against the petitioner u/s 509 of IPC.
The petition was filed by the accused u/s 482 CrPC for quashing of FIR and final report registered by the victim. But the court observed that as per Sec 509, insulting a woman is not sufficient but the essential element is that there should be an insult to the modesty of a woman. The Court inferred that there was no connection between the victim and the petitioner and hence it cannot be believed that the petitioner had a bona fide intention while offering her a ride. Thus, the High Court of Kerala dismissed the contentions and plea of the petitioner.
- Section 420
The section can be defined as, “Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property.—Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person deceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of valuable security, or anything which is signed or sealed, and which is capable of being converted into a valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
This section revolves around the offence committed by the person who deceives or cheats another person and thereby persuades the deceived person to deliver/ destroy/ alter the property by wrongful means. This offence is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable in nature and the punishment may extend to 7 years of imprisonment and fine as well. The essential elements of section 420 are as follows-
- Cheating (making a false or fake representation comes under the offence of Cheating)
- Dishonest inducement to deliver the property or to make/change/destroy any valuable security or anything which is sealed or is capable of being converted into a valuable security
- Mens rea (wrongful intention) of the accused while making inducement.
If a case of cheating is brought under the Sec 420 of IPC, a mere depiction of false representation is not satisfactory but one has to prove that the fake representation was in the knowledge of the accused person and it was done to deceive the victim, only then Section 420 can be invoked.
- Section 363-A
The Section can be defined as follows-
“Kidnapping or maiming a minor for purposes of begging —
(1) Whoever kidnaps any minor or, not being the lawful guardian of a minor, obtains the custody of the minor, in order that such minor may be employed or used for the purpose of begging shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
(2) Whoever maims any minor in order that such minor may be employed or used for the purposes of begging shall be punishable with imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.
(3) Where any person, not being the lawful guardian of a minor, employs or uses such minor for the purposes of begging, it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that he kidnapped or otherwise obtained the custody of that minor in order that the minor might be employed or used for the purposes of begging.”
Before we understand the section 363-A we should learn that punishment for the offence of kidnapping from India and lawful guardianship is different and these 2 forms of kidnapping are defined under section 360 and 361 of IPC.
In case of kidnapping or maiming a minor with the objective of making him/her beg, the word “minor” is to be interpreted as any male person below the age of 16 years or any female person below the age of 18 years will be considered a minor. Similarly, the word “begging” is also described as the act of soliciting or receiving alms in a public place, entering any private premises for receiving alms or using a minor for soliciting or receiving alms.
The offence committed under this section is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable in nature and the punishment can extend to life imprisonment and fine as well, and such cases are tried before the Sessions Court.
- Section 295
The section can be defined as, “Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.—Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons intending to thereby insult the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
This section is regarding any sort of destruction caused intentionally to any religious place or sacred place to insult that particular religion or class of persons.
The section states that any kind of destruction, damage or defilement of a worship place or an object held sacred with a mala fide aim to insult the religion of a group of persons is punishable with imprisonment extending to 2 years or fine or both. As India is a secular country, people should respect one another’s religious beliefs and their worship places as well so as to maintain peace and harmony in society.
There are certain other sections which are often charged along with the Sec 295 such as if one disturbs the meeting of people who are involved in some religious ceremony or worship, then the accused can be charged with Sec 296 and in case someone says any word, sound or gesture’s which might hurt the sentiments of that religious group, then he/she can be punished for up to 1 year of imprisonment or pay fine or both under the Sec 298.
- Section 322
The section defines “voluntarily causing grievous hurt” and the section has been laid down as follows-
“Voluntarily causing grievous hurt.—Whoever voluntarily causes hurt, if the hurt which he intends to cause or knows himself to be likely to cause is grievous hurt, and if the hurt which he causes is grievous hurt, is said “voluntarily to cause grievous hurt.”
Explanation.—A person is not said voluntarily to cause grievous hurt except when he both causes grievous hurt and intends or knows himself to be likely to cause grievous hurt. But he is said voluntarily to cause grievous hurt, if intending or knowing himself to be likely to cause grievous hurt of one kind, he actually causes grievous hurt of another kind.”
While charging someone with this section, the most important element which should be considered is that the person should have the knowledge of the hurt that it is likely to cause grievous hurt and only then it will come within the aspect of Sec 322 or else it won’t be considered that he voluntarily caused hurt to the other person. This was well supported in the case of Rambaran Mohton v. State, AIR 1958 452, that the offence of grievous hurt won’t be taken into consideration until the offender has caused grievous hurt as well as had the intention to cause the hurt. The punishment in case of grievous hurt can range from 1 year to 10 years of imprisonment, or fine or both depending upon the gravity of the hurt caused.
- Section 489 B
The section 489 B is defined as, “Using as genuine, forged or counterfeit currency notes or bank-notes.—Whoever sells to, or buys or receives from, any other person, or otherwise traffics in or uses as genuine, any forged or counterfeit currency-note or bank-note, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be forged or counterfeit, shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
The above-stated section anticipates that offender must either sell/ buy /receive from any other person or he must have either trafficked the counterfeit currency or used the fake currency note or bank note for genuine reasons. The person using/ buying/ receiving the currency should have the knowledge or have a reason to believe that the currency is counterfeit or forged. The penalty prescribed for the respective offence can be for imprisonment up to 10 years along with a fine.
Many judgments are describing under what conditions the person can be found guilty and innocent. In case of Bharati v. the State of Maharashtra, the alleged person was found using the fake currency notes in the market and on the search of the accused person, fake notes of Rs 500 and 50 were redeemed from her. Later, when the house of the accused and her husband was examined, they found single-sided printed currency notes and other materials that were being used by the accused for printing these counterfeit currencies. The treasurer of RBI also confirmed that the notes recovered from the house of accused were all fake and the Bombay High Court held the accused guilty under the Section 489-A, 489-B, 489-C and 489-D of the Code.
In another case, the Bombay High Court held that the accused was not guilty under the sections 489-A and 489-B of the Code as mere possession of counterfeit currency will not be sufficient proof, to presume that the person was aware of the currency being fake or counterfeit. The facts mentioned above were laid in case of Abdul Majeed Abdul Rahman Sarkhot v. State of Maharashtra where it was stated that the accused was a common man and he had no knowledge that the currency he possessed were forged currency.
Another well-known judgment of Ponnuswamy v. State found the accused guilty as he bought paddy from a peasant and Rs 130 to the peasant, among them Rs 100 were forged. The accused was arrested and a separate trial was conducted which led to the discovery of forged notes from him and he had no valid reason or explanation as to how and where did he get so many fake notes. Thus, the Supreme Court held him guilty under section 489-B of the IPC.
- Section 465
Section 465 is one of the important sections of IPC as one should be aware that if someone puts a signature or stamp or even electronic signature of any other person or some authority of any particular organization without the prior permission or consent of that person or authority (doesn’t matter whether the person exists or deceased) will said to have committed forgery as stated under Section 464 of IPC and such person shall be liable for imprisonment of up to 2 years or fine or both. The section can be defined as
“Punishment for forgery—Whoever commits forgery shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
The offence of forgery is a non-cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable offence which can be tried before any class of Magistrate. (first or second class)
- Section 287
Sections 284 to 289 of the IPC lists similar kinds of offences in nature. If a person works with poisonous substances (S 284), fire or combustible matter (S 285), Explosives (S 286), any kind of Machinery (S 287) or have animals (S 289) and acts negligently or casually which may lead to danger to another person or cause hurt shall be penalised with imprisonment upto 6 months or fine ranging from Rs 200-1000 or both. In this, section 287 can be defined as
“Negligent conduct with respect to machinery.—Whoever does, with any machinery, any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life, or to be likely to cause hurt or injury to any other person, or knowingly or negligently omits to take such order with any machinery in his possession or under his care as is sufficient to guard against any probable danger to human life from such machinery, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”
It makes it clear that rash or negligent use or conduct of any machinery which is likely to cause harm to any human life or cause any hurt or injury to the other person where the person deliberately omits his duty or is negligent with the machinery which is working under his care or under his possession will be liable for a term of 6 months of imprisonment or fine extending to Rs 1000 or both.
The offence is cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable and can be tried by any Class of Magistrate.
General Defences available in IPC for Accused Persons
There are some specified general defences that are available on the part of the accused person which one should be aware of in order to claim the innocence of the alleged person. Some of the most commonly used general defences are Section 95 of IPC, where the accused avers plea of act caused is “trivial harm”, acts done under involuntary intoxication (Sec 85 and 86), acts done while the person was not mentally stable or suffering from some mental abnormality (sec 84) or plea that the act was done with the consent of the victim (Sec 87-93).
Some other defences which are also used by the accused as per the availability of the evidence and nature of the complaint, like act done under death threat (sec 94), act done in the name of “Accident” and “Misfortune” (sec 80 and 81) and one of the most used defence by people is the acts done for self-defence and this defence extends to saving other persons also (sec 96-102, 106). Thus, these are some of the important sections which might be used by the suspected person to prove his innocence before the Court.
Thus, we learnt some of the important sections that every layman should be aware of so that he can register a complaint in case he/she is aggrieved by any of these offences. Indian Penal Code is one of the main criminal codes of India as most of the offences can be found in this code along with their punishments, and IPC acts as substantive document whereas Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act include all the proceedings concerning the crime-related cases. IPC basically includes all the offences recognized by our country, which are further tried in the Courts and Magistrates as per the respective jurisdiction.
Refer – Indian Penal Code (Complete Act)
Also Read – How to Read a Law or an Act ?