Acts Done Under Compulsion | Section 94 IPC

By | January 13, 2020
Acts done under compulsion

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Acts Done Under Compulsion | Section 94 IPC | Overview

The article discusses the acts done by the person under compulsion. Certain people are immune to criminal activity. Chapter IV of the IPC,’ General Exceptions’ which includes Articles 76 to 106, exempts some citizens from criminal responsibility.

Even if a person is prima facie part of a statute defining an offence or imposing a punishment, an act or omission of the accused is not a violation if it is covered under some exceptions set out in Chapter IV. The accused is a criminal. Each penal law has a number of restrictions and without exception, no criminal offence can be complete. Acts done under compulsion are justifiable acts and ultimately exempt an individual from criminal liability.

I. Acts Done Under Compulsion

Section 94 in The Indian Penal Code

Act to which a person is compelled by threats.—Except mur­der, and offences against the State punishable with death, noth­ing is an offence which is done by a person who is compelled to do it by threats, which, at the time of doing it, reasonably cause the apprehension that instant death to that person will otherwise be the consequence: Provided the person doing the act did not of his own accord, or from a reasonable apprehension of harm to himself short of instant death, place himself in the situation by which he became subject to such constraint.

Explanation 1.—A person who, of his own accord, or by reason of a threat of being beaten, joins a gang of dacoits, knowing their character, is not entitled to the benefit of this exception, on the ground of his having been compelled by his associates to do anything that is an offence by law.

Explanation 2.—A person seized by a gang of dacoits, and forced, by the threat of instant death, to do a thing which is an offence by law; for example, a smith compelled to take his tools and to force the door of a house for the dacoits to enter and plunder it, is entitled to the benefit of this exception.”

This section recognizes the principle that involuntary crimes are a criminal liability for protection. Compulsion is a restraint on a person’s will, by which a man is urged to do what he disapproves of his judgment, and if the decision rests on the person, he will reject it.

The theory was based on the well-known maxim, ‘actus me invito factus non est meus act‘,  i.e. an act committed by me, is not my act against my will, and therefore I am not liable for it. It is therefore extremely just and fair for a man to be excused for his actions which are done through force and coercion that are unavoidable.

The advantage of this provision would apply to all crimes under this Code except for the two specifically excluded in the clause, namely murder and death-punishable offences against the State. This provision shall apply to any special law or local law by virtue of s 40, paragraph 2 of the Code.

II. Exclusion of Murder and Offences Against the State Punishable with Death

The protection of this section shall be exempted for crimes of murder and death-punishable offences against the State. That is, there is no protection under this section for a person who commits murder under the threat of instant death.

This is probably because a man can’t kill another to save his own life. A person, however, who, under the risk of instant death at the hands of murderers, abets murder and the offence of causing the evidence of murder to disappear; is entitled to s 94 defences.

But a person who participates in a murder commission even under the threat of instant death cannot seek protection from the chapter. But a person who engages in a murder commission even under the threat of instant death cannot seek protection from the chapter.

In reference to the second provision, i.e., the death-penalty offence against the state, where coercion is not a justification for criminal liability, there is only one death-penalty offence against the government in the IPC. Death is punishable by the crime of declaring or threatening to wage war or promoting any war against the Government of India under s 121, IPC.

The exception was probably made with the idea that a person would put his country’s sovereignty over his or her life. Even at the point of the weapon, people should refuse to fight against the state. It wasn’t an excuse for him that a gun was aimed at him and that had he not fought a war, he would have been killed.

III. The threat of Instant Death

To use the exemption under this clause, if the act is not performed, the threat under which the act is performed must be a threat of instant death. The threat may be nothing less than an instant death threat. If the risk is anything but ‘instant death’, then it will not refer to this chapter.

The threat of death, though present briefly but eventually ceases to exist, or where it happens at a future or distant date, cannot be pled as a justification because the threat is not ‘instant’.

In Emperor v. Antar[1], the accused assisted in removing the dead body of a person following the murder of the accused’s mother, under the master’s threat of killing him if he declined to assist him in removing the dead body, the accused who would otherwise have been guilty under  s201 was excluded from punishment under this chapter.

In Queen Empress v. Latif Khan[2], it was held that ‘It is not enough to excuse a subordinate policeman in torturing someone to confess unless the deputy police officer can prove that he is compelled to act in threat of immediate death’.

If an official was bribed in order to avoid economic damages and personal losses, then the bribed party was found guilty of the offence of unlawfully gratifying the public official and of the financial damage or loss in which the defendant committed the crime. because there was no risk immediately, he or she was not deemed to be an excuse for the commission of the crime. This was held in the case of Queen Empress v. Maganlal & Motilal[3].

Under this paragraph, the crime of falsifying accounts committed under the superior official’s orders cannot be excused, since there was no point in the crime being committed under the instant death threat. It was held in the case of Re Doraiswami Reddiar[4].

In Zahid Beg v. Emperor[5], it was held that it is sufficient if the immediate death is caused to him if the person does not take action. It is reasonably apprehensible. Whether or not the immediate death risk is valid, if circumstances indicate that the accused at the time of the crime is reasonably apprehended that if the accused doesn’t commit the act, immediate death would be caused, then such a reasonable apprehension of immediate death is sufficient to exempt the accused from the criminal liability under this chapter.

The threat should be Present at the Time of Doing the Act

The important ingredient of this clause is that at the time of doing the act of committing the crime the threat of instant death must be present. If the threat of immediate death ceases or does not continue to exist, this section will not apply at the time of the actual commission of the offence.

Proviso and Explanations to Section 94 IPC

Section 94 is explained in two ways. Secondly, the scope of the chapter should be expanded. Under the terms of the section, an actor should not, by his or her own consent, be placed in such a situation where he or she was subject to such coercion or threat. Similarly, out of a reasonable apprehension of injury, short of immediate death, the person should not have been put in such a situation of compulsion.

Explanation: 1, really is a preliminary explanation. It states that if the person joins a dacoit gang by himself or due to threats of beatings, the benefit of this section will not be gained. The risk he faced was because he was just battered and not immediately killed. The man has, therefore, put himself in the position of exposing himself to such restrictions or threats in the explanation.

Explanation: 2, reveals a contra scenario in which an individual is kidnapped by a dacoit gang. He either did not come to the company of the Gang of Dacoits with his own consent or under threats of short death.

The man concerned will avail the benefit of this section because the situation is not of his own. It is a matter of fact whether a person is forced to commit a crime under the threat of immediate death by a mob, and the absence of evidence of the same force renders the reason inapplicable.

This section excuses a person from the consequences of any act except (1) murder and (2) offences against the State punishable by death in fear of immediate death; however, there’s insufficient justification for fear of hurt or even grievous hurt. It won’t be enough to simply risk potential death. In this chapter, murder committed under an instant death threat is not excused. However,’ murder’ does not include abetment to murder, nor is it excused.

The doctrine of compulsion and necessity

Anyone shall except as provided in this section, plead for the excuse of necessity or compulsion in defence of an otherwise criminal act. No one has the right to become a party and commit mayhem on society, because of his fear of consequences for himself.

Unless the uneasiness of the mind is demonstrably shown or real fear of instant death is shown, the burden on the offender is not a justification for the law being broken.


References

  1. KI Vibhute, PSA Pillai’s CRIMINAL LAW, 11th ed, 2012, Lexis Nexis.
  2. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 35th ed, Lexis Nexis.
  3. KD Gaur, CRIMINAL LAW CASES AND MATERIALS, 5th ed, Lexis Nexis.

[1] AIR 1925 All 315

[2] (1895) ILR 20 Bom 394 (DB)

[3] (1890) ILR 14 Bom 115

[4] AIR 1951 Mad 894

[5] AIR 1938 All 91


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