Updated: Jan 19
Many of us know that when we are faced with the situation of saving ourselves from harm we can save ourselves from the danger by way of self defense. These happen often, especially to children and women. During these times, the kind of choices that we make to save ourselves from harm make a lot of difference. Choices are important. In the court of law, the method of self-defense chosen by us is crucial. It can save us but at the same time our chosen method of self-defence can also be debilitating. Nothing is an offence which is done in the exercise of the right of private defence.1 Modern Law acknowledges the necessity to defend oneself from death even when there is a possibility to induce a serious bodily injury. One cannot file a plea of self defense solely on the basis of a speculation or perception.2 Here, the necessity is to clearly describe (with adequate proof) that there was an unavoidable situation granted the accused with ample opportunity to inflict a severe injury if a preemptive action against the same is not undertaken.3 A person therefore, has the right to defense.4 In case of occurrence of a death during the event of undertaking self defence, there must be a proved reasonable apprehension that death was a result of the assault.5
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL STATE OF MIND:
Human mind is said to be fickle and fragile. Life is full of ups and downs. It takes weird turns and therefore, it is significant to make a choice that is (in the normal parlance) the best alternative possible that can be opted by a reasonable person. When it comes to self-defense, one either gets scared/feels disgusted while tackling a situation or has an influx of excitement that rises in the spur of the moment let's one lose their rational composure. In a state of disturbed mental equilibrium, it gets difficult to calculate the degree of hurt that is enough for retaliation. In a situation that demands a lot of physical restraint, a normal human will find it hard to control their feelings of anxiety in isolation. In case of a stressful scenario, the human brain has an inclination towards getting numb. There are a lot of psychological factors that play a role when a person faces a situation where they have to defend themselves or others, such as:
PTSD: A person is likely to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when faced with a situation that is likely to disturb their mental equilibrium. Not everyone who has PTSD has to undergo a dangerous event. PTSD leads a person to seek safety from others. They are likely to be anxious, suffer from sleeplessness and have sudden attacks of paranoia that will make them more likely to react aggressively. About 7 people out of 100 experience PTSD at least once in their lives. While most recover in 3 months, some people might take longer. Their daily routine gets disturbed. Flashbacks of the traumatic events act as a trigger and a person might turn more aggressive that they ought to be under a normal circumstance. For example, if a person got into a car accident, they may avoid driving. Even if they try, they are likely to get flashbacks and find it hard to move.
Children and their reactions: Children can have extreme reactions to a pressing situation. A child can go to any length to express the trauma as per their mental and physical capacity. For example, in case a child finds out that his/her parents are getting a divorce a child might start being clingy, stubborn or showcase disruptive/disrespectful behaviour. In some cases, teens might resort to taking revenge by indulging into activities that can be considered unlawful. The lack of mental stability and information to handle themselves makes children more prone to criminal tendencies if left unchecked.
Introversion: It is evident that introverts take a lot of time in making a decision. They do not like it when someone crosses the personal barrier that they have created to save themselves from harm. They can be defensive when someone invades their privacy.
Stress: A person loses his capability to think clearly. There is a possibility of one taking a rash decision by feeling helplessness. In case of substance abuse and having little or no system of social support. Childhood trauma can also impact the decision making process.
Social anxiety: A person who suffers from social anxiety, a person fears being judged. They are in a constant state of worrying about embarrassing themselves and therefore do not voice themselves out. The seeds for social anxiety are sown usually in the teenage years. These people might also be a victim of harassment because of them blushing, sweating or even talking in a shaky voice. In case of continuous harassment, some people might even resort to suicide as a self-defence mechanism. Low self-esteem and negative attitude towards themselves also results in poor social skills.
DEGREE OF HURT:
Right to self-defense in a case of murder is allowed in rarest of rare cases.The necessity to combat is allowed if there is clear evidence that there is a threat to life. For example, in K.G. Gopi and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors6, the CRPF jawans were barred from punishment for firing rounds on terrorists in self-defense.7 This implies that the matter at hand must be pressing and urgent.8 In this case, shooting was justified and does not amount to manslaughter or murder. For example, if a person A shoots a person B who was hiding in a bush with an intention to kill, then one can not take advantage of his own doing. In a case where there is a known danger of an animal who is on the loose and likely to kill, and an accidental killing takes place due to the same because of the misconception, the person who shoots is granted with immunity.9 There was no intention of killing another human.10 You can not act otherwise, under the fear of unforeseeable death. There are various factors to be considered such as, whether the right of private defence is available or not, the injuries received by the accused, the imminence of threat to his safety, the injuries caused by the accused and the circumstances whether the accused had time to have recourse to public authorities.
In case of a simple fight: One has to ensure that the nuances of the fight does not have severe injuries or a long lasting injury on the person. If there is a case of a person having a severe injury, then the court might consider it fit to punish,
In case of a serious fight, without use of firearms: The people involved in the fight need to know that there is no imminent threat to life. Therefore, there is no need to injure a person with serious injury that can hamper life, in self defense.
In case of a serious fight, with firearms: There is a clear threat to the life of the person and thus, any action shall be admissible in the court of law for the sake of preservation of one’s life. Provided that, there is clear indication that the person involved is directly impacted.
At times we might react harshly, but such harsh acts would have harsh repercussions.When a person is continuously nudged or poked around by another person, they might react harshly. In the case of a person who already suffers from anxiety or PTSD, stress etc, the reaction might be more extreme. Even if your intention was harmless. The person who has this reaction might not intend to harm the other person intentionally but might end up harming them or others around them. The aim of this article is to spread awareness among the masses to acknowledge that there are people who suffer from psychological traumas and create a better atmosphere for living. We must ensure that our sufferings must not make others suffer. The degree of force must be genuine, else “an eye for an eye would make people blind.” Let's create a good environment for living and develop healthy psychological habits as a society. Let’s create an environment where healthy psychological habits are inculcated and developed to make this society a place worth living.
1. Section 97, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
2. Salim Zia v. State of U.P. (AIR 1979 SC 391)
3. Section 105, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
4. Section 97, 100 and 101, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
5. Butta Singh v. The State of Punjab (AIR 1991 SC 1316)
6. 127 (2006) DLT 257
7. Previously found to get ‘dismissed from service’ by I.G.P. Jammu and Kashmir.
8. Joseph H. Beale, Jr., Homicide in Self-Defense, Columbia Law Rev. Vol.3, No. 8, 1903, pp 528.
9. State Government v. Rangaswami, (1952) CriLJ 1191
10. Section 80, General exceptions, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
~1. Ridha Dhawan (Young Leader, Niti Manthan)
2. Shivang Sangwan (Co-Lead, Niti Manthan)
This Blog is written under the Young Leaders for Legal Literacy Program (YL3 Program). By Niti Manthan.