'Girl killing in self-defence to save modesty is not guilty'

Madras HC verdict comes after a girl exercised her right of private defence

In a landmark judgment, the Madras High Court has upheld a young girl exercising ‘the right of private defence’ to save her modesty and life, when she was on the verge of being sexually assaulted by her father and quashed the criminal proceedings against her for alleged murder.

“When the girl, like the petitioner was put in such a situation, she would have been by all means, prompted only to save her modesty by using any weapon which immediately came to her hands. That is what the petitioner has done in this case. She has exactly performed what Mahatma Gandhi said about self-protection of women about 80 years ago,” said Justice S Nagamuthu in a recent verdict. 

 The judge said this case, as presented by the Prosecution, clearly fell within the ambit of Section 100 of IPC . As per Section 96 of the IPC, nothing is an offence which is done in exercise of right of private defence that could lead to causing death as defined in Section 100.

 The prosecution’s case was that the 19-year-old girl from Nagercoil, was staying with her brother and father in suburban Mangadu. Their father was a habitual drinker and prone to animalistic behaviour in an inebriated state. On the fateful night he returned home as usual intoxicated to find the girl alone. Around 1 am the girl found her father by her side extending sexual overtures and also threatening her with a knife.

Her desperate pleas went unheard and in a bid to protect herself the girl took the extreme step of stabbing him with a knife. Taking note of all these details and the final police report, Justice Nagamuthu said: “What was attempted to be done to the petitioner (the girl-victim) was unbearable and intolerable violence. Thus the petitioner was justified in killing her father. In view of the above, I am inclined to quash the proceedings.” The occasion for the accused to plead self-defence had not arisen in this case, as the trial had not commenced.

The judge emphasised, “When obviously she has not committed any offence, allowing a trial will again be a very serious human rights violation.”

The  judge also appreciated the “fair investigation” done by police inspector M Azhagu and said it is very rare for a police officer to look into the exceptions appended to Section 300 of IPC, and to file a final report for a lesser offence punishable under Section 304 IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).

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