Section 353 IPC should not be used as a Tool to Cover Outright Illegality

Introduction :

In a country like India, we often hear about crimes like violence, assault, and discharge; such crimes are very widespread in our country and occur virtually every day. Similarly, public personnel are frequently exposed to considerable hazards in the discharge of their official obligations, and the law protects them in particular by imposing highly deterrent punishments on those who violate the law.

Facts of the Incident :

In an application filed by the applicant seeking the quashing of a FIR registered in Aurangabad for offences punishable under Sections 353, 504, 506 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), R M Joshi, J., allowed the application and quashed the FIR because no cognizable offence was made out against the applicant, to continue criminal prosecution on the basis of an apparently frivolous and malicious complaint would result in an abuse of Court process. When State authorities (respondent) arrived on the scene on July 16, 2019, to remove the alleged encroachment, the applicant notified him that he is the rightful owner of the land and handed him the property card stating his name as an occupier. The petitioner contends that a false complaint was filed.

According to the FIR, the applicant and his relative Navid Shaikh abused, intimidated, and rushed the respondent during the encroachment drive. It was further claimed that the applicant and his relative generated a commotion on the scene, obstructing the respondent’s legal exercise of his duties. The Court noted that while Sections 349, 350, and 353 of the IPC and the FIR show that there is an allegation of rushing on State authorities, there is no specific allegation against the applicant that he caused the respondent any motion, change of motion, or cessation of motion with the use of bodily power. Hence, on the surface, this is not a case in which the applicant employed any force, and hence the use of criminal force does not emerge.

What does the law say?

Section 353 states that anybody who assaults or uses unlawful force against a public servant in the performance of his or her responsibilities as a public servant, or with the aim to impede or deter that person from performing his or her duties as a public servant, or as a public servant in the performance of his or her duties as a public servant, or as a public servant in the performance of his or her duties as a public servant.

According to Section 353 of the Penal Code, anyone who assaults or uses criminal force against a public servant while performing his or her duties as a public servant, or with the intent to prevent or deter that person from performing his or her duties as a public servant, or as a result of something done or attempted to be done by these people while performing his or her duties as a public servant, shall be punished.

Decision of the Court :

The Court noted that there is an allegation that the applicant abused and threatened the respondent by rushing on his person, but there is a complete absence of any gesture as defined in Section 351 IPC to establish it as a ‘assault’. Thus, the contents of the FIR plainly reveal that the respondent was not frightened by the gestures.

The Court observed that the current FIR is the result of a malafide and malicious complaint against the informant in order to cover up the respondent’s action, which was wholly illegal, in total disregard of law, and contemptuous of the injunction granted by the Civil Court in respect of the subject property. The complaint is also founded or begun on a completely false premise that the High Court directed the demolition of the structures surrounding Dr. Salim Ali Lake in a Suo Moto Petition. The Court also noted that Section 353 of the IPC was enacted to ensure that public servants are not obstructed or deterred from performing their lawful duties, and that it cannot be allowed to become a tool in the hands of unscrupulous individuals to cover up outright illegality, as was done in the present case. As a result, the Court determined that no cognizable offence was made out against the applicant, but rather that a frivolous and malicious complaint was submitted in flagrant breach and abuse of the Court’s process.

The Bombay High Court stated that the purpose of Section 353 IPC is to protect a public worker from being blocked while fulfilling his authorized duties and that it cannot be used as a tool in the hands of unscrupulous individuals to cover up outright illegality, as was done in this instance.

Conclusion :

Misapplication of legal provisions can result in unfairness, harassment, and undermining of the rule of law. It is critical for the legal system to ensure that the law’s provisions are applied correctly and in accordance with their intended purpose. Individuals who believe they have been wrongfully accused under Section 353 IPC may seek judicial redress if there are instances of suspected misuse of this provision. They can go to court and contest the charges, bringing proof with them.

In turn, courts are critical in assessing the circumstances surrounding the implementation of the law and ensuring that justice is served. They have the jurisdiction to vacate charges or dismiss cases if Section 353 has been clearly abused.

Aditya Pratap is a lawyer and founder of Aditya Pratap Law Offices. He practices in the realm of real estate, corporate, and criminal law. His website is Aditya Pratap.in and his media interviews can be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/@AdityaPratap/featured. Views expressed are personal.

This article has been assisted by Khushi Singh, a 3rd-year law student pursuing B.A.LL.B. from NMIMS Mumbai.