Necessity as an Exception - Section 81 IPC
A necessity in a general sense can be said to be the state or fact of being required. When a person commits a crime or any harm to any person or property to prevent or avoid more significant harm than what has been caused by him, the defence of necessity is applied. This section incorporates a principle whereby a person is excused from doing lesser harm to prevent or avoid greater harm. You can understand necessity as an exception to IPC from section 81 (Chapter IV, General Exceptions). Let me make this topic clear and easy for you.

Section 81 of the Indian Penal Code

Section 81 of IPC says that anything which is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause harm, to prevent or avoid other harm to a person or property, will not be considered as an offence if it is done without any criminal intention and in good faith.

Reasonable test of necessity

In such a case, it is a question of fact whether the damage prevented or avoided was of such a nature and was so imminent as to justify or excuse the risk of acting with the knowledge that it was likely to cause harm.

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Example of necessity

Shiv pulls down houses to prevent the conflagration (fire) from spreading. He does this in good faith for saving human life or property. Here, if it is found that the harm to be prevented was of such a nature and so imminent as to excuse Shiv’s act, Shiv is not guilty of the offence.

Principle of good faith

As per section 81 of the IPC, anything done in good faith to prevent or avoid other harm to any person or property without any criminal intent believing or knowing that it is likely to cause harm will not be considered an offence.

Principle of no other alternative

In other words, any act committed causing harm to another person or property with the objective to prevent or avoid any other harm will not be an offence.

However, it is to be noted that the act committed must be done without any criminal intent and with the knowledge that if it is not prevented or avoided, it is likely to cause some harm.

This section allows the doing of lesser evil to prevent greater evil either to a person or property. In situations where necessity forces a person to do some illegal act, a person can use the defence of section 81 because no one can be guilty of a crime without the will and intention of the mind.

Bare Act PDFs

Essential Elements of Necessity in IPC

1. The act must be done without any criminal intention to cause harm:

In order to use the defence provided under this section, the criminal act must have been done without any evil intention. Intentional wrongdoing cannot be justified in any condition.

For example, Ramesh sees that a tiger is going to attack Suresh. Ramesh shoots the tiger, as he feels sure that the tiger might kill Suresh. Here, if unintentionally Ramesh kills Suresh; he would be guilty of no offence because he did not intend to kill Suresh.

2. The act must have been done in good faith:

If a person does any act with an evil intention, he will be held liable for the offence committed by him. The defence under section 81 IPC can be only used if the offence committed was in good faith.

3. The act must have been done to prevent or avoid some other harm:

It is significant that the offence committed, to be a defence, must be done to prevent or avoid the other harm. Case law: Dhania Daji (1868)

General exceptions are given under Chapter IV of the Indian Penal Code from section 76 to section 106. These cover various defences that an accused can plead for offences committed by him under the Code or any special or local law. An analysis of these sections indicates that they deal with situations that make the presence of mens rea opposing.
At WritingLaw, we have covered all the essential IPC General Exceptions with dedicated posts. Here are the links. Take a look.
Subhashini Parihar
WritingLaw » Law Notes » Necessity as General Exception – Section 81 IPC Law Study Material
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