Periyasamy vs State 2024 INSC 212 – Right To Private Difference – Criminal Trial – Independent Witness

Indian Penal Code, 1860; Section 96-106- Right To Private Defence – (i) Self-preservation is the basic human instinct and is duly recognised by the criminal jurisprudence of all civilised countries. All free, democratic and civilised countries recognise the right of private defence within certain reasonable limits. (ii) The right of private defence is available only to one who is suddenly confronted with the necessity of averting an impending danger and not of self-creation. (iii) A mere reasonable apprehension is enough to put the right of self-defence into operation. In other words, it is not necessary that there should be an actual commission of the offence in order to give rise to the right of private defence. It is enough if the accused apprehended that such an offence is contemplated and it is likely to be committed if the right of private defence is not exercised. (iv) The right of private defence commences as soon as a reasonable apprehension arises and it is coterminous with the duration of such apprehension. (v) It is unrealistic to expect a person under assault to modulate his defence step by step with any arithmetical exactitude. (vi) In private defence the force used by the accused ought not to be wholly disproportionate or much greater than necessary for protection of the person or property. (vii) It is well settled that even if the accused does not plead selfdefence, it is open to consider such a plea if the same arises from the material on record. (viii) The accused need not prove the existence of the right of private defence beyond reasonable doubt. (ix) The Penal Code confers the right of private defence only when that unlawful or wrongful act is an offence. (x) A person who is in imminent and reasonable danger of losing his life or limb may in exercise of self-defence inflict any harm even extending to death on his assailant either when the assault is attempted or directly threatened. [Referred in Sukumaran v State (2019) 15 SCC 117and Darshan Singh v State of Punjab (2010) 2 SCC 333 ] (Para 19,20)

Criminal Trial- non-examination of independent witnesses would not be fatal to a case set up by the prosecution. The difference between a witness who is “interested” and one who is “related”- it is not the law that the evidence of an interested witness should be equated with that of a tainted evidence or that of an approver so as to require corroboration as a matter of necessity. The evidence of an interested witness does not suffer from any infirmity as such, but the courts require as a rule of prudence, not as a rule of law, that the evidence of such witnesses should be scrutinised with a little care. Once that approach is made and the court is satisfied that the evidence of interested witnesses have a ring of truth such evidence could be relied upon even without corroboration. Indeed there may be circumstances where only interested evidence may be available and no other, e.g. when an occurrence takes place at midnight in the house when the only witnesses who could see the occurrence may be the family members. In such cases it would not be proper to insist that the evidence of the family members should be disbelieved merely because of their interestedness – if witnesses examined are found to be ‘interested’ then, the examination of independent witnesses would assume importance. (Para 21)

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