The Indian Penal Code, 1860, provides for several offences against the human body. Chapter 16, from sections 299 to 377 of IPC, discusses the offences against the human body. One of such offences is assault.
Assault is one of the most common offences that occur in day to day life. The offence of assault is defined in section 351 of IPC, and section 352 of IPC prescribes the punishment for the offence of assault.
In this Indian Penal Code law note, we explain the meaning of assault with examples, essentials, case laws, and punishment.
Meaning of Assault
Section 351 of IPC defines assault. It provides that when a person makes any gesture (sign or indication), or any preparation with the intention, or is aware that such gesture or preparation will cause any other person in fear; and that the person who makes such a gesture or preparation is about to use criminal force (means intentional use of force to create annoyance, fear or injury) to that person; in such a case, that person commits the offence of assault.
Explanation: ‘Only words’ do not amount to assault unless such words are accompanied by such gestures or preparation.
Let us understand assault with the help of a few examples.
Examples of Assault
Example 1: Ankush shakes his fist at Rohan with the intention of causing Rohan to believe that Ankush is about to strike Rohan. Ankush has committed an assault.
Example 2: Rohit begins to unloose the muzzle of a wild dog, intending or knowing it to be likely that he may cause Sanjay to believe that Rohit is about to cause the dog to attack Sanjay. Rohit has committed an assault on Sanjay.
Example 3: Nikhil takes a stick, saying to Pankaj, “I will give you a beating”. Though the words used by Nikhil could in no case amount to an assault, and though the mere gesture, by reason of not being accompanied by any other circumstances, might not amount to an assault. But, the gesture explained by the words may amount to an assault.
Essentials of Assault
These are the essentials of the offence of assault:
- Any gestures should be given, or any preparation should be made by one person in the presence of another.
- Such gestures or preparation should be intended or known to be likely to cause any person to be apprehended.
- Such apprehension is of such a nature that the person is about to use criminal force on another person.
Apprehension means understanding, anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen.
Case Laws Related to Assault
Here are three important case laws related to assault.
Muneshwar Bux Singh vs State Through Raghunandan Prasad (1955): In this case, the court held that a person shall not be held guilty of assault if his gestures or preparation do not cause apprehension of harm to another person.
AC Kama vs HF Morgan (1864): In this case, the court held that ‘only words’ cannot be considered an assault if such words clearly show that there was no intention to use criminal force.
R vs St George (1840): In this case, the court held that if an unloaded pistol is shown from a reasonable distance, it may amount to an assault.
Punishment for Assault
Punishment for assault is provided in section 352 of the Indian Penal Code. Whoever commits the offence of assault under section 351 of IPC shall be punished under section 352 of IPC, with the imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to 3 months, or with fine that may extend rupees 500, or both.
Exception: As a general rule, any offence committed under grave and sudden provocation is a defence under IPC. However, assault made under grave and sudden provocation is not a defence. Thus, whoever commits assault out of grave and sudden provocation will be liable for the same punishment as generally provided for the offence.