James Martin vs State of Kerala case clearly defined the extent of the right of private defence which a person can use during danger.
Section 103 of the Indian Penal Code talks about, The offense of private defense extending to death in order to protect property.
This section says that,
The properties of this act extend to causing the death of a person where the wrongdoer is carrying out the following offences:
a) In cases of house-breaking in the night,
b) An attempt or actual commission of a robbery in the house or property.
c) The mischief of setting a property/tent or building on fire, which is used for a residence and dwelling purpose.
d) Causing of theft, and such mischief which poses a threat to the individual of grievous death and to an extent death.
- In the state of Kerala, the person who is accused, did not close his shop on the day of all India strike, “Bharat Bandh”, he owns a flour mill.
- The activists entered the mill forcefully and demanded closure; they were armed with sharp objects as weapons.
- They threatened to assault the person and were attempted to attack to which the accused fired shots and killing two persons and injuring some innocent persons as well in such a shoot. His property, the flour mill, was set on fire.
- When the matter was taken to the court, both Trial Court and High Court held the appellant exceeded the right of private defense and was convicted for the same.
- Aggrieved by the judgment, an appeal by special leave was made in Supreme Court.
ISSUE IN JAMES MARTIN vs STATE OF KERALA
- Whether James Martin exceeded the right of private defense?
The Honorable Judges present to hear this case were Justice Doraiswamy Raju and Justice Arijit Pasayat. They were of the opinion that,
- The High Court observed explosive substances were used to destroy the properties of the accused, but did not explicitly answer the question whether the damage was prior or subsequent to the shooting by the accused.
- The violence perpetrated by the Bandh activists who got into the appellant’s place by scaling over the locked gate and that their entry was unlawful too.
- Intimidating, assaulting and making them flee without shutting down the machines was also unlawful.
- There was the threat of more violence to the person and properties, that the events taking place generated a sort of anger, rendering the situation explosive and beyond compromise.
- The acts by the appellant were within the reasonable limits of exercise of his right of private defense and he was entitled to the protection afforded in law under section 96 of IPC.
The Honorable court held that the acts by the appellant were within reasonable limits and had a right to exercise private defense. Therefore, the appeal was allowed.
This case is important and clears the scope of the right of private defense. When a person or his property is in grave danger because of the unlawful violence against him, then exercising the right of private defense extent to death is reasonable. The sets precedent and is relevant even today.
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