Concept of Force under Indian Penal Code
By Shweta Nair
The word ‘Force’ may convey different meanings in different fields of study. For example, in
physics, it is said that force = mass x acceleration.
For the lay-man, force might mean exerting physical compulsion or pressure on another. The
IPC has given its own definition of the word.
Section 349 defines force as-
A person is said to use force to another, if he causes to that other,
Or if he causes to any substance, so as to bring that substance into contact with that other’s
body, or anything which that other is wearing or carrying or anything so situated that affects
that other’s sense of feeling,
Provided that the person causing, causes in one of the three ways hereinafter described:
- By his own bodily power
- By causing to any substance
- Or by causing to any animal.
It is to be noted that Section 349 is a defining section. The substantive section is laid down in
Section 350 states that,
Whoever intentionally uses force to any person, without that person’s consent, in order to the
committing of an offence, or intending by the use of such force to cause, or knowing it likely
that by the fear or annoyance to the person to whom the force is used, is said to use criminal
force to that other.
Criminal Force = Force + Without Consent + Offence or Injury/ Fear/ Annoyance +
Section351 then defines Assault as follows:
Whoever, makes any gesture or preparation intending or knowing it likely that such gesture
or preparation will cause any individual present to apprehend that he who makes that gesture
or preparation is about to use criminal force to that individual, is said to commit an assault.
Illustration 1: A is passing through a secluded lane. B looks at her and threatening by twirling
his moustache. B has committed assault.
Illustration 2: X shakes his fist at Y. X has committed assault.
Illustration 3: P menacingly sharpens her knife all the time glaringly at Q. P has committed
assault on Q.
The offence of assault and criminal force and the punishment therefore will vary and increase
depending upon the object with which it is done.
The simplest punishment in cases without provocation would be imprisonment up to 3
months or fine of Rs. 500 or both.
The same offence if done with intent to dishonour a person, to commit theft, to deter a public
servant from doing his duty or to wrongfully confine a person would attract higher
Special attention needs to be given to Section 354 which talks about assault or criminal force
with intent to outrage the modesty of a woman.
The framers of the IPC have not defined ‘Outraging the modesty of a woman’ probably
because of the fact that it would be very difficult to comprehensively define the meaning
thereof and therefore to give a wide scope to the term, there is no definition in the IPC.
However, this also leads to a situation where the section is prone to abuse or misuse.
One of the famous cases of Section 354 is Rupan Deol Bajaj v. K.P.S. Gill.
Instances of brushing against woman in crowded places or pawing at a girl in a bus or train
would all be covered under Section 354.