Judicial Interpretation of Section 103 of IPC
Authored By Anshu Prasad
Keywords- Death, property, private defence, restrictions
The right of private defence of person and property has been defined under Sections 96 to 106 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 103 relates exclusively to the private defence of property only. It enumerates those circumstances under which the defender is entitled to cause even death of the wrongdoer while exercising the right of private defense of property. The circumstances under which even death may be caused have been enumerated under four clauses and are subject to certain restrictions. The section clearly states that the right is available where any of the offences mentioned under any of these clauses has either been committed or attempted.
Self-help is the first rule of criminal law. The right to private defence is necessary for the protection of one’s body and property. It is a right inherent in a man. But the kind and amount of force are subject to restrictions regulated by law. The use of force to protect one’s property and the person is called the right of private defence. The right of private defence is based upon the instinct of self-preservation. This instinct is vested in every human being and has been recognized by the law in all the civilized countries.
Interpretation of Section 103.
Section 103 relates exclusively to the private defence of property only. It enumerates those circumstances under which the defender is entitled to cause even death of the wrongdoer while exercising the right of private defense of property. A person cannot exercise his right of private defence against the property to cause the death of any person except in the following cases:
1. Robbery: Robbery, as per section 390 of IPC, can be committed in two ways. Eventually, robbery is a broader aspect of either theft or extortion.
Theft is said to be Robbery when at the time of committing theft, the thieves eventually:
· Causes death, hurt or wrongful restraint
· Attempts to cause death, hurt or wrongful restraint
· Causes fear of death, hurt or wrongful restraint
· Attempts to cause fear of death, hurt or wrongful restraint
Extortion is said to be robbery when at the time of committing robbery, the person is put in fear of instant death, hurt or wrongful confinement.
2. House-breaking at night: As per section 446 of IPC, if a person commits housebreaking after sunset and before sunrise, the other person has a right of private defence to an extent of causing the death of that person.
3. Mischief by fire: It is explained under section 436 of IPC. If any person acts in order to cause wrongful damage to someone’s property, it comes under mischief. Mischief by fire is considered to be the most aggravated form of mischief.
If a person commits mischief by setting fire on any building, tent, or vessel which is used for Human dwelling; another person has got a right to cause the death of that person under the right of private defence.
4. Theft, mischief, or house-trespass with reasonable fear of death or grievous hurt: If any offence of theft, mischief, or house-trespass is being committed on someone’s property, a person generally cannot cause the death of the offender. But if the person is under a reasonable fear that if he will not cause the death of that person then this will result in his death or grievous hurt, then he can cause the death of the offender.
In the case of Kanchan v. State, just because mischief was committed by the victim and his companions on the property of the accused, the accused does not get the right to cause death. There must be a reasonable apprehension that death or grievous hurt may be the consequence otherwise.
In all the above-said situations, although the right of a person can be extended to causing the death of the aggressor, the right cannot be exercised in excess of what is necessary.
The right of private defence of property extending to causing of death is not available in cases of trespass on open land.
The accused had not closed his flour mill on the day of "Bharat Bandh", that was organized by some political parties. The activists entered the mill and demanded closure. They were armed with sharp-edged weapons. They threatened and assaulted the accused. He fired at them resulting in the death of two persons and also injuring some innocent people. His property was set on fire. The court held that the acts of the accused were within the reasonable limits of his right of private defence. His conviction was set aside.
The accused constable killed his head constable. The accused was doing his patrolling duty at the time on a bridge. He claimed to have fired at somebody whom he saw with a firearm near the value tower, which was neither used for human dwelling nor custody of property. He did not plead that he entertained the apprehension of death or grievous hurt. The Court said that the plea of private defence extends to the causing of death was not tenable.
The right to private Defence is a right that must be exercised to protect one’s body or property. The right to private defense can even extend to causing the death of the other but its subject to certain limitations and conditions imposed by law. This is because the law has itself accepted that self-protection is the primary duty of every individual. Law will not be able to help someone incapable of helping himself in cases when something wrong happens to that person.
 Kanchan v. State, 1982 CrLJ 1633 (All)  Jassa Singh v State of Haryana, AIR 2002 SC 520 [LNIND 2002 SC 13] : 2002 Cr LJ 563  James Martin v State of Kerala, (2004) 2 SCC 203 [LNIND 2003 SC 1097]  Bhupendra Singh A Chudasama v State of Gujarat, AIR 1997 SC 3790 [LNIND 1997 SC 1378]