Since past few days, many people are falling for the WhatsApp forward which says that Section 233 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been passed by the Modi Government which gives a woman “supreme right to kill or harm” a man if she is getting raped or suspected of getting rape. However, this information is false. In fact, IPC 233 is related to making or selling an instrument for counterfeit coins.
This message was first widely shared after the brutal Nirbhaya gang rape case in 2013 and now, after cases like Kathua and Unnao gang rapes of minors, this message is being circulated again.
Widely shared over emails and through several social media platforms, this message reads, “Finally a new law passed by Modi Govt today. As per Indian Penal Code 233, if a girl is suspected to be raped or getting raped, then she has the supreme right to kill the man, injure his sexual part or harm that person as dangerously and girl won’t be blamed for murder… Tell as many as you can…”
Incidentally, IPC 233 refers to punishment for anybody who “makes or mends, or performs any part of the process of making or mending, or buys, sells or disposes of, any die or instrument, for the purpose of being used, or knowing or having reason to believe that it is intended to be used, for the purpose of counterfeiting coin, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
When one can use self-defense
However, IPC 96-106 refer to Right of Private Defense of the body. This right is extended to any person and not just women.
The Law of Private Defense (Section 96-Section 106) in IPC operates in three spheres. It allows a person to use reasonable force to:
(a) Defend themselves from an attack.
(b) Prevent an attack on another person, and
(c) Defend his property.
But such force to defend oneself must be reasonable and proportional. For example, if a person approaches you with a stick to hit you and you have a gun, and you manage to scare the assailant away, you do not have a right to shot them. That is, the law allows you to protect yourself from immediate harm and get yourself out of danger. The law does not allow you become the “judge, jury, and executioner.” If there is a possibility of you avoiding harm and approaching authorities, you cannot take matters into your own hands and claim the right to self-defense. The only force required to get one out of harm is considered reasonable. The person claiming the right to self-defense cannot cause excessive harm to the alleged assailants.
This law thus, automatically allows a rape victim to defend herself from a rape attempt with as much force required to either scare away the assailants or escape the situation and report to the authorities (hence the usage of pepper sprays are completely legal). But this Law does not allow the victim to kill the rapist if there is a possibility of the victim escaping and reaching help.
The only situation in which right to self-defense allows one to kill another is on the satisfaction of the following two conditions;
- a) The deceased was the actual assailant, and
- b) If the offense committed by the deceased against which the right of private defense of body and property was used falls within any of the categories enumerated in Sections 100 (private defense of life) and 103 (private defense of property) of the Indian Penal Code
There is no right of private defense against an act done or attempted to be done, by the direction of a public servant acting in good faith under colour of his office, even though that direction may not be strictly justifiable by law. That is, there is no right of private defense in the case which there is time to approach the public authorities. To give an example, you cannot assault a police officer and resist arrest even if the police officer has mistaken your identity, as long as the officer was acting in pursuance of his duty. As in a case of the mistaken identity, it can be clarified before the authorities and your release secured.
The only exception to the above is when the police or authority are not in uniform, has not identified themselves, and you do not realize that they are a public authority discharging their legitimate function.
The Logical Indian take
We urge all our community members to do a fact check before forwarding such messages. The number of times this message has been forwarded is very high. In this time and age, we are bombarded with information from everywhere, some of which is untrue and factually incorrect. We, as responsible people should verify such “news”. It is not enough that we educate ourselves about any piece of fake information or news, it is also equally important to tell others too about this.