Concept of Hurt under the Indian Penal Code, 1860
By Shweta Nair
The offence of ‘Voluntarily causing Hurt’ is one of the basic offences against the human body.
The word ‘hurt’ conveys different meanings to different people. The Indian Penal Code has therefore defined the term in Section 319 as follows:
Whoever causes bodily pain, disease or infirmity is said to cause hurt.
Section 321 is the substantive section which brings into existence the offence of voluntarily causing hurt. It states:
Whoever does any act with the intention of thereby causing hurt to any person or with the knowledge that he is likely thereby to cause hurt to any person and does thereby cause hurt to any person is said voluntarily to cause hurt.
It is to be noted that every substantive section has 3 parts-
Applicability, the physical element (Actus reus) and the state of mind 9mens Rea). For example, in Section 321, the applicability is general which is denoted by the word- Whoever. The physical elements required are 1) Doing of an act and 2) Thereby causing hurt.
The state of mind required is intention or knowledge.
Section 323 is a penal section which prescribes the punishment for voluntarily causing hurt i.e., up to one year or fine up to 1000 rupees or both.
According to Section 321, the basic equation for causing hurt is- A + H + I/K- Act + Hurt + Intention/ Knowledge.
Many situations in which this basic equation is satisfied can be envisaged.
For example, one person slapping his friend during a sudden argument as well as a known offender cutting off the hand of a woman with a chopper in order to steal her jewellery, will both satisfy the basic requirements of the offence of causing hurt. However, common sense would suggest that the punishment required in both these cases will not be the same.
What then would be the factors which would influence the seriousness and culpability of the offence of causing hurt?
The four factors which will affect the basic offence of voluntarily causing hurt are as follows:
Nature of Hurt- Here the preposition is that the severity of the hurt caused itself should affect the culpability of the act. However, in the very nature of things, it would be impossible to allot a separate punishment for every possible type of hurt which is probable. Advisedly, the law does not attempt to do so. Section 320 defines ‘grievous hurt’ This section begins with the words-
The following eight categories of hurt are only designed as grievous.
Therefore, any type of hurt not covered by Section 320 would be, by default simple hurt.
According to Section 320, the following would be grievous hurt:
Permanent privation of the sight of either eye.
Permanent privation of the hearing of either ear.
Privation of any member or joint.
Destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint.
Permanent Disfiguration of head or face.
Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth.
Any hurt which endangers life or which causes the sufferer to be during the space of 20 days in severe body pain, or unable to pursue his ordinary pursuits.
Type of Weapon Used- Here the law feels that the type of weapon used by the assailant in causing the hurt lends an insight into his degree of evil intention. Here again it would be impractical to prescribe a separate punishment for every other type of weapon. The IPC has in Section 324 referred to ‘Dangerous Weapon’. Any weapon which does not fit within the description given in this section would be a simple weapon. Also clubbed in the category of simple weapon would be an assault with no weapon like a fist punch, kick, scratching etc
Section 324 describes dangerous weapon as- Any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting or any instrument which used as a weapon of offence is likely to cause death or fire or any heated substance or poison or any corrosive substance or explosive substance or any substance which is deleterious to the human body to inhale, swallow or receive into the blood or any animal.
Object of the Assault- Here, the thinking is that an act motivated by a specific object is more serious than an act which is spontaneous and with no particular object. The IPC in various sections has prescribed different objects such as to extort property, to constrain to an illegal act, to commit an offence, to extort a confession, to compel restoration of property to deter a public servant from doing his duty, Acid Attack 326 A/B.
The acts causing hurt if done with any of these specific objects are more severely punishable.
State of Mind of the Assailant- The state of mind contemplated herein is whether the act was a provoked act or an unprovoked act.
Provocation means that the accused did not originally intend to act in the manner in which he did but some utterness or action on behalf of the victim instigated him to do so. Provocation is given a lot of importance in our criminal jurisprudence. A provoked act is considered to be much less serious than an unprovoked pre-meditated one.
Section 334 and 335 prescribe lesser punishment to hurt caused as a result of provoked acts.