Close this search box.


By: Shivalika Midha, Advocate

Self-Defence Law In India

People reserve the right to protect themselves when they are assaulted, or they feel at serious risk; this is known as self-defence. Each state has various laws that characterize what self-defence implies. It is the obligation of each State to secure its residents, yet no country, particularly with its huge populace, can stand to guarantee insurance to every single resident. In this manner, the right to self-defence is one that is perceived by each free country on the planet, so people can, in certain cases, go rogue for their well-being. Any demonstration done in self-defence isn’t an offence, and no individual will be sentenced for something very similar. Be that as it may, for a demonstration to be considered as one of self-defence, the peril should be quick and genuine where the casualty has no ideal opportunity to follow the legitimate response of alarming the local police.

An individual has the privilege to protect against the assault of an attacker by utilizing such power as might be fundamental. This right isn’t restricted to the safeguard of his body but rather stretches out to that of his family and, conceivably, in the instances of a felonious attack, even to that of one who very his insurance. It is no offence to safeguard oneself or some other from unlawful viciousness causing sensible dread of death or deplorable substantial damage or to utilize power in the execution of an obligation forced by law, given no more noteworthy mischief is delivered than needed. The strategy behind the right is to make or empower an individual to forestall another from submitting an offence. No individual has the legitimate obligation to run from the impending risk rather, it is relied upon and is allowed to him that he can take a plan of action to the utilization of power to turn away the risk. The law doesn’t anticipate that a duty should be withdrawn from the people. Hostile words without going with the danger of quick actual mischief, be that as it may, don’t legitimize the utilization of power in self-defence.

The Right to Self-defense Indian Constitution

The Law of Self-defense can be followed back to early human advancement, wherein each individual reserved an option to protect his life and property. This right may likewise be known as the Right of Private Defense. History is flourishing with occasions of networks practising their entitlement to protect their property and life. Indeed, it may not be a misrepresentation to state here that the two universal conflicts which history has seen and the continuous contentions among states and between networks in states are cases of the activity of the right by the networks to protect their territory, water, or other regular assets from infringement either by subjective demonstrations of the State or personal stakes in the public arena.

The right of Self-defense does not exist against acts which are not offensive. It is available against all assailants, whether sane or insane, competent or incompetent and a person mistaken or otherwise. The right prevails against overt attacks irrespective of their intention and meaning. It exists even though innocent persons are harmed when there is a danger to life or limb, and there is no other alternative to protect the person. The test is whether there is an immediate necessity for Self-defense and, further, whether or not it was immediately necessary for the defendant to adopt that particular course of action.

What is Imperfect Self-defense?

Sometimes, a person may have a genuine fear of imminent physical harm that is objectively unreasonable. If the person uses force to defend themselves from the perceived threat, the situation is known as “imperfect self-defence.” Imperfect self-defence does not excuse a person from the crime of using violence, but it can lessen the charges and penalties involved. Not every state recognizes imperfect self-defence, however. Some states also consider instances where the person claiming self-defence provoked the attack as imperfect self-defence.  Imperfect self-defence is a common law doctrine recognized by some jurisdictions whereby a defendant may mitigate punishment or sentencing imposed for a crime involving the use of deadly force by claiming, as a partial affirmative defence, the honest but unreasonable belief that the actions were necessary to counter an attack. Not all jurisdictions accept imperfect self-defence as a basis to reduce a murder charge. The concept of imperfect self-defence is that, although not all elements of self-defence were proved, extenuating circumstances nonetheless partially excuse the act that caused death. The doctrine of imperfect self-defence has been defined as “an intentional killing committed with an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances justified deadly force”.

National Self-defense in Context with India’s State Practice

India has been involved in several armed conflicts of an interstate nature since its independence in 1947. It has been involved in wars since 1948–49 till now with its neighbouring states, particularly Pakistan and China. However, for the purpose of the present chapter, the focus will be on recent military use of force, particularly after the September 11, 2001 incident. The reason behind choosing this timeline is based on the view that the question of the right of self-defence against non-state actors gained prominence mainly after the September 11 incident. Though the discussion around the scope of Article 51 and the right of self-defence existed prior to the September 11 incident, after this incident, discussions shifted towards self-defence against non-state actors operating from another state.

It is also important that the UN Security Council adopted resolutions 1368 and 1373 after the September 11 incident. Sporadic incidents of military firing are reported, however, without leading to any war-like situation. There are also instances of the use of force with intensity and reach, which would amount to the use of force in the legal sense. There are two instances of such nature which took place in 2016 and 2019. These two incidents will be evaluated for the purpose of assessing India’s state practice in relation to the right of self-defence against non-state actors. The Surgical Strike of 2016 in India could also be justified as self-defence force used under international law.

Self-defense Law in India against Property with case references

Under Sections 100 and 103 of the IPC which state that the voluntary causing of death is protected if there is an immediate threat of death, intention of committing rape or kidnapping or gratifying lust or wrongfully confining a person, or if there is robbery, housebreaking, mischief by fire or theft or mischief or trespass to property where death can be apprehended as a consequence. In the case of Jassa Singh v State of Haryana, the Supreme Court held that the right to voluntarily cause death extends only to trespass of houses and not open land with no inhabitants. Sections 101 and 104 state that voluntarily causing death will not be protected unless all provisions of Sections 100 and 103 are present.

 The right to self-defence extends not only to one’s own body but to protecting the person and property of another, the Supreme Court has interpreted the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In a verdict delivered on March 7, 2019, a Bench of Justices A.M. Sapre and R. Subhash Reddy deals with the right to private defence, enumerated in Sections 96 to 106 of the IPC, while acquitting a Tamil Nadu Forest ranger who shot dead a sandalwood “smuggler” in the Dharmapuri forest area in 1988. The court observed that the right of private defence extends not only to “the defence of one’s own body against any offence affecting the human body but also to defend the body of any other person. The court explained that the right does not arise if there is time to have recourse to the protection of the public authorities. Nor does it extend to the infliction of more harm than is necessary.

Indian Laws Related to Self-defense Killing

Section 96 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states that “nothing is an offence, which is done in the exercise of the right of private defence,” while Section 97 states that “every person has a right to defend his own body, and the body of any other person, against any offence affecting the human body, the property, whether movable or immovable, of himself or of any other person, against any act which is an offence falling under the definition of theft, robbery, mischief or criminal trespass, or which is an attempt to commit theft, robbery, mischief or criminal trespass.” This means that no person can be convicted for any harm caused by an act of self-defence against his own life or property or that of another. According to Indian and Common law, there is no requirement that, in the exercise of private defence against the life or property of another, the defendant must have any relationship with the person whom he has saved. IPC Section 96 to 106 of the penal code states the law relating to the right of private defence of persons and property.

Judicial view of self-defence or private defence with case laws

The protection of life and property is axiomatic in every civilized society, and because it is impossible for the State to do so on every occasion – as law enforcement officers cannot be omnipresent, the individual is given the right of private defence. The right of private defence legally accords to the individuals the right to take reasonably necessary measures to protect themselves under special circumstances.

Case Laws

Darshan Singh V. State of Punjab, the Supreme Court laid down Guidelines for the Right of Private Defence for Citizens. It observed that a person could not be expected to act in a cowardly manner when confronted with an imminent threat to life and has every right to kill the aggressor in self-defence. A bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Asok Kumar Ganguly, while acquitting a person of murder, said that when enacting Section 96 to 106 of the IPC, the Legislature clearly intended to arouse and encourage the spirit of self-defence amongst the citizens, when faced with grave danger.

Yogendra Morarji vs the State of Gujarat, the Supreme Court discussed in detail the extent and the limitations of the right of private defence of the body. One of the aspects emphasized by the court was that there must be no safe or reasonable mode of escape by retreat for the person confronted with an impending peril to life or of grave bodily harm except by inflicting death on the assailant. This aspect has created quite a confusion as it indirectly suggests that one should first try to see the possibility of a retreat rather than defend by using force, which is contrary to the principle that the law does not encourage cowardice on the part of one who is attacked.

Nand Kishore Lal V. Emperor, accused who being Sikhs, abducted a Muslim married woman and converted her to Sikhism. Nearly a year after the abduction, the relatives of the woman’s husband came and demanded that she return. The accused refused to comply, and the woman herself expressly stated her unwillingness to rejoin her Muslim husband. Thereupon, the husband’s relatives attempted to take her away by force. It was held that the right of the accused to defend the woman against her assailants extended under this section to the causing of death, and they had, therefore, committed no offence.


The examination manages Self-defense as appropriate for individuals as well as an approach to guard themselves somehow or another or the other utilizing some power. The power utilized in protection should be not just fundamental to stay away from the assault but additionally sensible, i.e., proportionate to the mischief undermined; the standard is best expressed in the negative structure that the power should not be to such an extent that a sensible man would have viewed it as being messed up with regards to the risk. It has not been chosen whether the special case works to present an exclusion from the common law of offences against the individual. Such safeguards as spikes and canines are legitimate if sensible. Self-protection claims are genuinely normal, and the guidelines about the circumstances in which an individual can safeguard themselves and the measure of power they are permitted to utilize can be confounded. Everything can be simplified with the guidance of a skilful neighbourhood lawyer. In me, there ought to be an exclusion made for something very similar in the law, whichever is most appropriate with the circumstance emerging and furthermore with the offence which is against the individual.