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Report No. 237

Section 324 IPC

5.14 In our considered view, the offence under Section 324 IPC (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) should be made compoundable. The offence is punishable with imprisonment extending to three years and fine. Both in the old Code as well as the new Code of 1973, the said offence as well as the more serious offence in Section 325 were treated as offences compoundable with the permission of the court.

The Law Commission in its 154th and 177th Reports recommended that these two offences together with several other offences may be shifted to the Table appended to Section 320 (1) so that it can be compounded without the permission of the Court. However, Section 324 was deleted from the list of compoundable offences by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 2005. The Commission has probed into the background in which this offence was deleted. At first blush, it appeared that it was deleted by reason of an inadvertent error. But, it does not appear to be so.

In the CrPC (Amendment) Bill of 1994, it was proposed that Section 324 IPC should be omitted from the Table under sub-section (2) of Section 320 CrPC. The apparent reason for such proposal was that the provision was likely to be misused by the accused by exerting pressure on the complainant to agree for composition. However, this reasoning is quite fallacious. For most of the compoundable offences, the same argument can be advanced. The proposal which was initiated by the Home Ministry during 1990s came to fruition in 2005 and by the CrPC (Amendment) Act of 2005, Section 324 was omitted from the list of compoundable offences.

What was sought to be done in the year 1994 or before, was thus accomplished in 2005. It is interesting to note that within a year thereafter, in the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2006, Section 324 was sought to be reinducted into Section 320. It appears that what weighed with the Ministry in proposing the said amendment was the recommendation of the Law Commission to include Section 324 in the Table under Section320 (1) CrPC by transferring it from the Table under Section 320(2).

Accordingly, Clause 30 of the Bill provided for this change. However, the CrPC (Amendment) Act, 2008 (Act No.5 of 2009) shows that the said change was not approved by Parliament, and Section 324 continues to be a non- compoundable offence. Such a step was taken pursuant to the opinion expressed by one of the Members of Rajya Sabha in the course of discussion.

5.15.1 It is evident from the discussions in Rajya Sabha on the aforesaid CrPC (Amendment) Bill 2006 on 18th December, 2008 that the proposal was dropped at the instance of a distinguished lady Member of Parliament. We quote what the Hon'ble M.P said while participating in the discussion:

'I have moved amendments on some of these aspects. The first one is this. It is a very very important one. It deals with section 324: voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means. It says, 'Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt by means of any instrument for shooting, stabbing, or cutting, or any instrument which, used as weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, or by means of fire or any heated substance."

Now, we have had such cases. Everybody knows this whole phenomenon of death by burning. If you are going to bring section 324, which is often used in such cases, into a compoundable offenc.- - you are introducing it in the first tabl.- - I think, it is going to be extremely unjustifiable. Therefore, I urge upon the hon. Home Minister, please don't do this and please remove this from the compoundable crimes'.

5.15.2 This suggestion was agreed to by the Hon'ble Home Minister. Accordingly, the move of the Government to re-introduce section 324 within the ambit of section 320 CrPC failed.

5.15.3 Perhaps, the argument of Hon'ble Member was concerned with the cases of bride burning. Causing hurt by means of fire or heated substance is one of the components of Section 324. In view of the increased incidence of crime of causing injury by means of burning wives, the offence should not be permitted to be compounded. It could very well be that a case which would have otherwise resulted in death had ended up in the infliction of simple hurt.

But the degree of cruelty and the severity of the crime should be duly taken into account and therefore the offender should suffer adequate punishment. Further, the result of inclusion in Table 1 would be that even in cases where pressure is exerted on the victim woman to compromise, the prosecution will abate. This, in substance, seems to be the rationale behind the remark of the Hon'ble M. P.

5.16 We have given anxious consideration to this line of argument irrespective of the observation of the Supreme Court in Diwaker Singh's case cited in para 1.1 above. Still the Commission does not find a good and substantial reason for excluding Section 324 IPC from the list of compoundable offences, though we find merit in the plea that it should find place in Table 2 under Section 320(2) but not Table 1 under Section 320(1) Cr PC. Cases of causing death or bodily injury to women by cruel husbands and their kith and kin almost invariably trigger prosecutions for the more serious offences under Sections 304-B, 307, 326 or Section 326 read with Section 509 IPC.

Section 324 IPC is hardly invoked in such cases. Even if there are few prosecutions under Section 324 concerning women- complainants, that would hardly afford justification to deviate from the general scheme and purpose of Section 320 CrPC. When there is justification to make it compoundable in a vast majority of cases, the rare situations should not make a difference. Further, in order to take care of the apprehension which may hold good, if at all, in a few cases, it is desirable and appropriate to retain its original position in Table 2.

Irrespective of the cases of causing harm to women by means of burning or otherwise, taking an overall view, it is a fit case where the permission of the Court should be insisted upon. In cases of causing hurt to woman by burning, the court is expected to exercise restraint in granting permission. The safeguard of the Court's permission needs to be maintained in an offence of this nature.

5.17 Accordingly, we recommend that Section 324 IPC should be reinducted into the ambit of section 320 CrPC and it should retain its original position in Table 2 appended to sub-section (2) thereof. Section 324 can remain in the company of Section 325 in Table 2 rather than being shifted to Table 1 as per the recommendation contained in 154th Report of the Law Commission. The implications of shifting it to Table1 have not been considered by the Commission in that Report. The observation of the Supreme Court in Diwakar Singh's case to make the offence under Section 324 compoundable is, in our view, rests on a sound basis.

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