The private defence for insignificant or trivial acts is provided by Section 95 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Nothing is considered an offence just because it causes injury or because it is meant to do so or simply because it is known to be likely to do so, as long as the harm is so little that no one with common sense and composure would complain about it, according to the law. The law strictly prohibits the conviction of the accused in cases that are insignificant and minor in scope, and no prudent and reasonable person would attempt to bring a legal complaint against such actions. De minimis non-curate lex, which states that the law “is not concerned with trifles,” is the cornerstone for this section. This clause is codified in the code to lessen the strain that minor offences, trivial crimes, and minor social wrongs place on Indian courts.

However, whether an act that constitutes an offence is little or insignificant and whether it falls under Section 95 of the Code will primarily depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the case, the parties relationship, the type of harm done to the victim, and the intent of the offender. It cannot be judged only on the basis of the harm the act inflicted to the victim’s body and other parts.

Object and Application of the section

The purpose of drafting s. 95 was to prevent the Penal Code from applying to cases that, due to linguistic shortcomings, may comply with the letter of the law but not its spirit and are generally treated by the Courts as innocent.

The section is applicable if the conduct results in harm is intended to result in harm, or is known to be likely to result in harm, as long as the harm is so minimal that no one with common sense and composure would complain about it.

Burden of proof

The court shall presume the absence of such circumstances of those that make the case of the guilty within the meaning of General Exceptions of the Indian Penal Code, according to Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. This provision also places the burden of proof on the accused to establish the circumstantial validity of specific case-related facts. In order to avoid the court supposing that there are no such conditions in the case, it is the responsibility of the accused to demonstrate any general exemption claimed under IPC provisions.

In the case of Neelam Mahajan v. Commissioner of Police[1], The Delhi High Court had noted that if an accused person invokes any of the general exceptions listed under the IPC and Section 105 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to establish a presumption of the lack of such facts and circumstances, the burden of evidence shifts to the accused person.

Interpretation of the term ‘Harm’

Trivial activities typically refer to behaviour that has “less seriousness or importance” in the traditional sense. It asserts that the law shouldn’t take meaningless or insignificant issues into account. The IPC’s provisions do not define the word “harm.” However, it might mean damage, loss, injury, handicap, etc. in different sections of the IPC. An individual may suffer physical or mental injury. The definition of “injury” as used in Section 95 of the IPC has many different meanings. As a result, the harm done to a person is of such a minor character that a prudent person would not report it to the police or a court of law. For instance, no guy can move through a gathering without bumping into someone or stepping on someone’s toes, thus no man with common sense would be upset about such a minor nuisance.

Social welfare enactments

The Penal Code contains a number of offences that appear to be minor in nature, but the law still punishes them. According to the theory of men’s rea, the Code recognises a number of minor offences as offences in order to promote public and social welfare. There may be instances where the harm or damages are so minor that they cannot be recognised, but if they were produced by a negligent act, then the parties responsible must pay the fine or compensation.

In the case of State of Madhya Pradesh v. Mahadeo[2], The Madhya Pradesh High Court ruled that Section 95 of the IPC is important to overturn a conviction for unauthorised possession of immaterial railroad property and to uphold the exoneration of those accused of failing to take actions that violated the 1988 Prevention of Corruption Act.

In the case of Jagdish Prasad v. State of Uttar Pradesh[3], It was contended that the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1955 imposed harsher punishment for a second violation of the Act where the first violation was deemed to be serious and the second violation was deemed to be minor or inconsequential. As a result, the second offence should carry less punishment under the law. The Supreme Court rejected the petitioner’s argument and ruled that the Act’s provision of the same penalties for both offences made it impossible to distinguish between minor and major offences. Therefore, it would be assumed that the offence was of equal seriousness if the punishment was the same.

Offences against women’s modesty

The question of whether offences against women’s modesty are regarded as petty or unimportant in nature and the accused is not charged under the pertinent IPC sections is a topic of much controversy. The problem has been solved, though, because it has been realised that given the shame and pain experienced by the women, the offences against their modesty cannot be dismissed as minor. It is claimed that in any situation when a woman’s modesty is violated, Section 95 of the IPC would not be applicable. In the case of Rupan Deol Bajaj v. KPS Gill[4], An IAS officer claimed to have been the victim of outraging modesty. The Supreme Court ruled that even while the act appears to have a modest impact, it actually has a substantial one. Therefore, the victim’s harm was not minimal. As a result, the accused was found guilty after the court rejected his argument under Section 95 of the IPC. The act was carried out with an ulterior motive and intention, according to the court, which is evident in the accused’s actions. Given that the claimed act was carried out in front of an audience that included members of the social elite, it is necessary to assume that he was aware of it. So, the appeal was accepted by the court.

Compounding trivial offences

Compounding of offences usually refers to an agreement or pardon between the parties involved in the proceedings. The list of substantive offences that can be compounded by the parties in criminal law is provided by the Code of Criminal Procedure. A compromise between the parties is essentially established by legal rules incorporated in criminal law when the victim or complainant consents to resolve the case and withdraw charges against the accused. The more serious and heinous offences, however, cannot be combined. As a result, it should be highlighted that minor offences may be compounded with or without a judge’s approval.

In Veeda Menezes v. Yusuf Khan and Anr.[5], during a dispute between the neighbours, the first respondent flung a file of documents that missed the appellant’s spouse but struck the appellant instead, scratching her elbow. In this case, the appellant claimed that the respondent was physically responsible for the harm. In this case, the respondent used his IPC Section 95 defence. In this case, the lower court found the accused guilty of simple harm under Section 323 of the IPC. The matter then proceeded to appeal.

In Biswabahan v. Gopen Chandra[6], By accident or with malicious intent, the accused cut down several trees and greenery illegally and utilised the wood for fires. Later, he added to the crime by giving the authorities Rs. 50 in compensation. The question of whether a compounding of an offence is legal in this case emerged. The petitioner contended that the offence was of such a minor character that the compensation paid by the accused person is sufficient to finish the matter and put a stop to it without the need for a court order. The petitioner’s argument was rejected by the court, which emphasized that the alleged crime must be held accountable in a legal proceeding.

[1] 1993 IVAD Delhi 9

[2] 1972 CriLJ 1097

[3] 1965 SCR (3) 806

[4] 1995 SCC (6) 194

[5] 1966 SCR 123

[6] 1967 SCR (1) 447

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.


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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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