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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Right to self-defence extends to protection of property: Supreme Court of India


Right to self-defence extends to protection of property: Supreme Court of India
Jul 21, 2010
NEW DELHI: Right to self-defence is not only about using force to save oneself from an attacker but also extends to protecting one's property from being stolen or forcibly taken over, the Supreme Court has ruled.

"The basic principle underlying the doctrine of the right to private defence is that when an individual or his property is faced with danger and immediate aid from the state machinery is not readily available, that individual is entitled to protect himself and his property," it said.

But the force used by a person to protect himself or his property should not be grossly disproportionate to that needed to ward off the threat from the aggressor, a bench comprising Justices D K Jain and R M Lodha said in a recent judgment.

At the same time, the bench said it would be difficult to quantify how much force was justifiable in exercise of a person's right to self-defence.

"The means and the force a threatened person adopts at the spur of the moment to ward off danger and to save himself or his property cannot be weighed in golden scales. It is neither possible nor prudent to lay down abstract parameters which can be applied to determine whether the means and force adopted by the threatened person was proper or not," said Justice Jain, writing the judgment for the bench.

The court did not give any relief to petitioner Sikander Singh and his associates who had launched an attack on another set of persons and had received injuries when those attacked had retaliated. Citing the injuries on them, the petitioners had claimed that they had attacked in self-defence and requested the court to set aside their conviction.

On finding that the petitioners were the aggressors, the bench said they could not claim right to self-defence.

"The right to self-defence does not include a right to launch an offensive or aggression. In our opinion, therefore, the appellants have failed to establish that they were exercising right of private defence," it said.

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