A New Law Against Rape?
Maitreyi Babusenan looks into the 'new law' that is doing the rounds on the internet causing much alarm.
On Jan 04, 2013

In the aftermath of the Delhi Gang-rape, there is an internet post which is going viral in social networking sites which claims that a new law has been passed and that now a woman can kill a man if he is attempting to rape her and she won’t be punished for it. According to the post this law is under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 233. Most people are intrigued about the authenticity of this post. The fact is, the post is partially true, but with a lot of incorrect details.

First of all, this is not a new law. Secondly, the law has nothing to do with IPC 233 which is related to ‘making or selling instrument for counterfeiting coins’! The IPC section which deals with rape and punishment for rape are IPC 375 and IPC 376 respectively. The current post actually relates to the laws of private defence which includes IPC 96 to IPC 106. The main IPC sections concerned here are IPC 100 that relates to ‘the right of private defence of the body which extends to causing death’ and IPC 106 that relates to ‘the right of private defence against deadly assault when there is risk of harm to an innocent person’.

In February 2012, a woman in Madurai was left free, on grounds of self defence. She was forced to murder her husband when he attempted to rape their daughter. He collapsed as she hit him with a cricket bat and was later declared dead at the hospital. The police released her on the strength of IPC 100 relating to private defence.

The law says that anything done in private defence is not an offence.  Every person has a right to defend his own body, and the body of any other person, against any offence affecting the human body. But the law also explains acts against which there is no right of private defence. This section suggests that there is no right of private defence against an act which does not cause death or grievous hurt. Also, there is no right of private defence in cases where there is time to approach the public authorities for help.

The law also says that the harm inflicted in self-defence should not be more than what is legitimately necessary for the purpose of defence. In the case of Deo Narain Vs. The State of U.P. (11 December 1972), there was a clash between the parties of the accused and the complainant over the possession of a certain land. Under the circumstances, the accused inflicted a fatal spear injury on the chest of the deceased. While the trial Court acquitted all the accused on the basis that they were exercising their right of private defence, the High Court held that the accused exceeded his right of private defence since he had used his spear with greater force than was necessary for defending himself. The court observed that he had inflicted a fatal injury while he himself had only received a superficial lathi blow on his head, and convicted him for the offence.

Thus the so called ‘new law’ isn’t just for women and it isn’t an anti-rape law. It is a law for private defence which has always existed. The recent ‘post’, though not completely true, exposes some of the laws that already exist in our judicial system which most of us are not fully aware of. But this definitely doesn’t mean that a woman can carry a knife with her everywhere and stab someone who passes rude comments on her and be protected by law. So all you women out there, the law doesn’t give you complete freedom to kill all those men who are troubling you. It’s true that you’d love to, but sorry, you can’t. And all the men out there can now breathe a sigh of relief. No they cannot kill you for money, revenge or simply for fun and then get away with it!
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I have not seen this internet post that has gone viral but it is interesting to note that men feel threatened by the thought that women may be empowered to kill them in self defense. And to the author of the article, most women I know barely react to the countless comments, jeers, pinches and pushes they are subjected to during the course of a day let alone carry a knife to finish off the harassers. Wish they would use the most important weapon in their kitty - their voice - loud and clear.
Asha Gopinathan , on Jan 04, 2013 08:31:22 AM
@asha gopinathan:your comment is so true and I too hope that they would make better use of their voice.
Maitreyi, on Jan 08, 2013 12:33:36 PM
Women empowerment can only happen if society becomes equal and an even development happens across the country.Protests and laws can never do justice to the cause.It will increase the problem if we dont eliminate the social evils like caste system and so on.Emotional outburst will never solve anything neither it did ever.
Subhajit Naskar, on Apr 24, 2013 08:53:04 PM
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