Last Updated :
Trivial Acts | Section 95 in The Indian Penal Code 1860 | Overview
- Introduction – Trivial Acts
- Harm- Meaning
- Offences that relate to a women’s modesty
- Offences under public welfare enactments
- Compounding of trivial offences
Trivial acts are justifiable acts and ultimately exempt an individual from criminal liability. Every penal rule is subject to several limitations and no offence can be absolute without exemptions.
Introduction – Trivial Acts
Section 95 in The Indian Penal Code
Act causing slight harm – Nothing is an offence by reason that it causes, or that it is intended to cause, or that it is known to be likely to cause, any harm if that harm is so slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm.
This section is based on “de minimis non curat lex” that is one of the principles of law which means that the law is not concerned with trifles.
There is no doubt that a man living in a society cannot avoid inconvenience to himself or others. Therefore, with such delinquencies as offences, Section 95 aims to’ exclude from the application of the Code those cases that fall within the letter of the penal law from the imperfection of the language but are not yet within its meaning’ and’ to prevent the penalization of marginal wrongs or insignificant offences.
To ordinary men, the rule is unnecessary, but there are odd people all over the world, and statutory regulation of this kind of law is required to protect against eccentricity. Only when the act complained about amounts to an offence and’ no person of ordinary sense and temper’ will complain about it, Section 95 will come into play.
There is no question of enforcing this provision where the act is of such a sort that it will not be an offence, even regardless of this clause. Nonetheless, whether an act that amounts to an offence is trivial will depend on the nature of the injury, the parties ‘ status, the relationship between them, the context in which they are put, the information or intention with which the offending act is performed, and other relevant circumstances. It cannot be measured by the assessment of the physical or other injuries caused by the act alone.
I. Harm- Meaning
There is no definition of harm in the IPC. The sense of its dictionary connotes hurt, injury, loss, disability, moral error or bad. In many parts of the IPC, the word ‘harm’ is used. Depending on the context in which it is used, its meaning would vary. For example, it can only mean physical injury or mental injury.
It means injury to an individual in a person’s body, mind, reputation or property. The word ‘ harm ‘ used in s 95 is wide-ranging. This refers to hurt, damage, insult, injury, disability, negative or wrong, including deliberate physical injury, financial loss or loss of reputation.
In Bindeshwari Prasad Sinha v. Kali Singh, the claim against the defendant was that by signing his name, he had taken away a certified copy of the judgment intended for the complainant. The plaintiff subsequently received another edition. The court found this to be a case protected by Section 95.
II. Offences that relate to a women’s modesty
Where the offence complained of is to insult a woman’s modesty, it can never be said that the harm caused is negligible or trivial given the woman’s ignominy and trauma. The complainant was an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer belonging to the Punjab Cadres in Rupan Deol Bajaj v KPS Gill (also known as the Butt-Slapping case).
At the appropriate point in time, she was appointed Special Secretary (Finance). She filed a complaint alleging offences under sections 341, 342, 352, 354 and 509 of the Penal Code by KPS Gill, then Police Director General, Punjab. She was invited to a dinner party at her colleague’s home, according to the complainant.
The party was also attended by KPS Gill. He called and asked her to come and sit next to him. He pulled the chair on which she was going to sit next to his chair when she went. Surprised at this act, the petitioner pulled the chair back to its original location, and when she was about to sit down, he pulled the chair near his chair again. She immediately left him realizing that something was wrong. Ten minutes later, KPS Gill stepped out of his seat and came and stood near her.
Through his finger’s crook, he did an action and asked her to come through him. The complainant objected to his disgusting behaviour, telling him to leave. He reiterated that she was meant to follow him in a commanding voice this time. The petitioner was apprehensive and scared as the accused had blocked her path, and without touching him, she couldn’t get up from the chair.
She pulled her chair about a foot and a half back immediately, then quickly got up and turned to get out. The accused, KPS Gill, slapped Mrs Bajaj on her butt at this point. This was in the other ladies and guests’ full presence. The petitioner lodged a complaint against KPS Gill and filed against him a First Information Report (FIR).
The accused moved for quashing the FIR to the HC. The HC allowed the request and quashed FIR on the ground that the allegations made therein did not disclose any cognizable offence and the nature of the harm allegedly caused to Mrs Bajaj did not allow her to complain in the same manner, in view of section 95, IPC.
The SC, on appeal, disagreed with the HC. The apex court held that section 95 did not apply to the FIR’s allegations. The apex court held that it could not be considered trivial under any circumstances when an offence relates to a woman’s modesty.
III. Offences under public welfare enactments
It was noted in the section on mens rea that there are certain crimes under different laws on social welfare, where strict liability is imposed on persons. Therefore, the question arises as to whether the argument of triviality can be recognized in relation to such offences.
For example, infringement of traffic rules such as parking a vehicle in a non-parking area or marginally exceeding the speed limit etc. may result in no harm or negligent harm on its own. Nevertheless, in such cases, the argument that the damage caused is negligible may not be acknowledged and the parties involved are liable to pay the levied fine.
It was argued in the case of Jagdish Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh that the 1955 Prevention of Food Adulteration Act levied a heavier penalty for a second offence under the Act, and where the first offence was of a serious nature and the second was insignificant or trivial, it would make the law particularly as it would punish a lesser offence with a harsher penalty.
The Supreme Court denied the claim and characterized the whole claim is fallacious. This held that there was no basis in the Act to differentiate between minor and serious crimes because the Act contained the same punishments for both. If the punishment is the same, it would conclude that they were deemed by the law to be of the same magnitude.
The magistrate, based on Section 95, IPC, acquitted the defendant who had been tried for an offence punishable under the 1955 Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Taher Bhai . The two defendants were caught selling hard-boiled sugar cakes, and they had been convicted by the judge on the basis that they were merely sellers of cakes bought from others.
The Bombay High Court held that, under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act 1955, Section 95 would have no application for any offence. As contemplated under Section 95 IPC, a slight deviation from the standard set out in the Act will not cause slight damage. The high court set aside the acquittal order and referred the case for trial to the magistrate.
In Public Prosecutor v. Kalavala Satyanarayana , the High Court of Andhra Pradesh also ruled that the protection of Section 95 should be not granted to the accused when an accused has been found guilty of misbranding pursuant to the Food Adulteration Act 1955 because misbranding is a serious offence.
For selling adulterated mustard oil, the defendant was charged in the case Bichitrananda Naik v. State of Orissa. The saponification value and the Bellier test value surpass the allowable limit were shown in the sample of mustard oil.
The excess was stated to be extremely low and therefore Section 95, IPC, would give the petitioner immunity. The HC of Orissa dismissed the appeal and found that the mustard oil specimen does not have the standard purities provided by the law, thus upholding the conviction of the accused.
Nonetheless, certain judicial opinions take the view that IPC Section 95 refers to special act offences. The Madhya Pradesh High Court in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Mahadeo also relied, for example, on the Section 95 IPC in order to quash a conviction of illegal possession of irrelevant railway property, for the acquittal of persons accused of omitting acts which contravened the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
IV. Compounding of trivial offences
Compounding of offences means resolution and/or pardon between parties. Section 320 of the CrPC provides a list of offences which the parties may compound.
In Biswabahan v. Gopen Chandra , an individual had the right to cut and collect firewood from dead and dying trees under the license. Under this permit, he felled some green trees illegally by accident and turned them into firewood.
He paid Rs. 50 in compensation for his mistake and compounded the crime. The question arose that the law permitted such a compounding. It was argued that the wrong done was of such a trivial nature that in the eyes of law the payment of compensation was adequate to resolve it and put an end to the matter without any thought on the character of the person accused of doing the wrong.
The court dismissed this claim and held that when the person accused of an offence, however trivial it may be, unless there is any provision in law to compound it, the law shall take its course and the accusation sought shall result in conviction or acquittal.
- KI Vibhute, PSA Pillai’s CRIMINAL LAW, 11th ed, 2012, Lexis Nexis.
- Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, THE INDIAN PENAL CODE, 35th ed, Lexis Nexis.
 Blackstone’s Criminal Practice 2003, Peter Murphy (ed), Oxford, 2003, p 34.
 AIR 1977SC 2432
 AIR 1996 SC 309
 AIR 1966 SC 290
 (1978) Cr LJ 820 (Bom)
 (1975) Cr LJ 1127 (AP)
 (1978) Cr LJ 1050 (Ori)
 (1972) Cr LJ 1297 (MP)
 AIR 1967 SC 895