Respondent claiming to have acted in private defence of his property believing the deceased to be a thief—Incident took place near Respondent’s house—Strained relations between deceased and respondent—Lathi strike inflicted with full force on deceased’s head causing death—Respondent claiming to have acted in private defence of his property considering the deceased to be a thief— Whether there is a right to a private defense—Whether there is a mistake of fact and good faith—Whether s. 79 is invoked or a conviction under s. 304 Part II is warranted. Words and Phrases: ‘Factual error’ and ‘good faith’ – Definitions.
On the date of the event, when the deceased was coming from PW 2’s house after reciting Bhagbat in the presence of other villagers, including the respondent, and approaching the respondent’s house, he was assaulted by the respondent. Hearing a noise, several villagers, including PWs 2, 3, 4, and 5, rushed to the scene and discovered the deceased lying in a pool of blood with a head injury. The respondent, his mother, and his wife were ministering to the deceased and cleaning up the blood. The deceased told the villagers that he had been assaulted by the respondent.The respondent claimed that his bell-metal utensils were taken throughout the day and that he was on the lookout for the thief when he observed a person entering his premises and, mistaking him for a robber, he struck him with a lathi strike, only to learn that it was the deceased. The deceased also told his wife that the respondent had assaulted him. The trial court found and punished the defendant under s. 304 Part Il of the IPC based on the facts presented.On appeal, the High Court agreed the defence argument and acquitted the respondent, ruling that he had not committed any crime and was protected under section 79 of the IPC. Allowing the State’s appeal,
HELD: 1. The High Court’s decision of acquittal was apparently erroneous and resulted in a manifest miscarriage of justice. The High Court’s acceptance of the defense’s claim of mistake of fact under section 79 of the IPC 1860 seems startling.
2. Under section 79 of the IPC, even if an act is not justified by law, it is not an offence if it is committed due to a mistake of fact in the belief that it is justified by law.
The issue of good faith is always a question of fact that must be decided based on the facts and circumstances of each case. It may be established as a general rule that an alleged offender is assumed to have behaved in the condition of things that he thought to exist in good faith and on reasonable grounds when he committed the alleged offence. Section 79 is invoked where the circumstances reveal that the accused acted in good faith, believing that he was legally justified in doing so because he was unaware of relevant facts or made a mistake about them.
3. However, in this circumstance, a person who is unaware of the existence of important facts or is incorrect about them is not guilty of activity that may have negative consequences that he never intended. The respondent acted in a completely dishonest manner. Without a doubt, the dead and the respondent had a tense relationship. According to the deathbed declaration as well as the extrajudicial confession, the deceased had gone near the pond to take the bell-metal utensils following the recital of Bhagbat. The respondent was apparently waiting for a chance to pay the account when he struck the deceased with the lathi strike, and there was no reason for him to suppose he was striking at a thief in the circumstances. Even if he was a thief, that information would not be enough to warrant the response striking the deceased with a lathi. The deceased had made no attempt to enter the house and was nowhere near it. The respondent appears to have stalked him and used the chance to settle a score by striking him with a lathi with great force on a susceptible portion of the body, such as the head, resulting in his death. He didn’t use the lathi in self-defense, according to the evidence. As a result, the respondent will be held accountable. Although the respondent cannot be said to have intended to kill the dead based on the circumstances, he must be attributed with knowing that striking him in the head with a lathi was likely to kill him. As a result, the respondent is found guilty in accordance with the law.
SEN, J., gave the Court’s decision. We are satisfied, after hearing learned counsel for the parties, that the High Court’s acquittal judgement was apparently erroneous and resulted in a plain miscarriage of justice. We are shocked that the High Court accepted the defendant’s defensible plea of mistake of fact under section 79 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. According to the evidence on file, the respondent and the deceased had a strained relationship over cattle grazing.
This is not a circumstance where a person is guilty of behavior that may result in negative consequences that he never planned because he was unaware of the existence of the relevant facts or was incorrect about them. Even if he was a thief, that fact would not be sufficient to warrant the respondent striking the deceased with a lathi. The deceased had not effected an entry into the house nor was he anywhere near it. He’d gone to get his bell metal utensil from the pond. It appears that the respondent stealthily followed him and took the opportunity to settle the score by dealing him with a lathi with great force on a vulnerable part of the body like the head which resulted in his death.
The respondent’s bail bonds will be revoked, and he will be hauled into custody immediately to serve out the remainder of his sentence.