Saturday, 21 September 2019

Whether offence U/S 324 of IPC is made out if injury was caused by human nail?

However, the question to be considered in the case at hand is whether an injury caused by human nail may be deemed to be an injury caused by means of an instrument for stabbing or cutting?
9. It may be noted that there is intrinsic difference between the two sets of appendages of human body namely, the teeth and the nails. Teeth are hard, bony appendages growing out of upper and lower jaw bones and by their very nature much stronger than the nails. Whereas the upper set of teeth is fixed, the lower set, activated by strong jaw muscles, is adapted to move against the upper set facilitating a pincer like grip upon the object being bitten or chewed. As such, teeth are capable of chopping away parts of human body such as tip of nose, earlobes or in extreme cases even distal parts of small fingers. They are; therefore, capable of causing much graver injury to human body than human nails.
10. The human nail on the other hand is a thin, though hard, layer covering the outer tip of human fingers. It is made up of a translucent protein called keratin. By virtue of its constitution, it is weaker than a tooth. It is also somewhat flexible. Unless they are intentionally used for pinching, nails of fingers are ordinarily not used in coordination with each other. As a result they are not capable of exerting same amount of pressure as teeth. Therefore, in ordinary course they only cause abrasions or scratch marks. In the present case also, only an abrasion over right side of neck was found on the person of the victim.
11. Thus, a human nail cannot be placed on the same footing as tooth as a weapon of offence or defence. It cannot be deemed to be an instrument used for either cutting or stabbing. Hence, hurt caused by human nail may not qualify as an injury caused by means of an instrument for the purposes of section 324 of the Indian Penal Code.
12. In aforesaid view of the matter, learned Courts below erred in framing a charge of the offence punishable under section 324 of the IPC simply because one of the abrasions found upon the person of one of the victims was said to have been caused by nails. Thus, the charge framed under sections 324 or 324 read with section 34 of IPC against applicants/accused persons is not sustainable in the eyes of law and deserves to be quashed.

Madhya Pradesh High Court
Chhota @ Akash vs The State Of Madhya Pradesh on 16 October, 2015
Coram: (C V SIRPURKAR) JUDGE                    
1. This Miscellaneous Criminal Case has been instituted on an application under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, filed on behalf of applicants/accused persons Chhota @ Akash, Vipin and Veeru. It is directed against the order dated 25-02-2015 passed in Criminal Revision No.11/2015 by the Court of VII Additional Sessions Judge, Sagar, affirming the order passed by the Judicial Magistrate First Class, dated 16-12-2014 in Criminal Case No. 2596/2014 framing charges against the applicants under sections 323, 294, 506 & 324 read with section 34 of the Indian Penal Code.
2. As per prosecution case, amongst other things, applicant/accused person Vipin clawed the neck of Atul with his nails. The only point that has been raised on behalf of the applicants during arguments is whether an injury caused by human nail can be said to have been caused by means of an instrument for stabbing or cutting, making causing of such injury punishable under section 324 of the Indian Penal Code?
3. No authorities have been cited on either side in this regard; therefore, the Court shall proceed to consider this question by interpreting the relevant part of section 324 of the Indian Penal Code which reads as follows:
324. Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means.—Whoever, except in the case provided for by Section 334, voluntarily causes hurt by means of any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, or by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison or any corrosive substance, or by means of any explosive substance or by means of any substance which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to receive into the blood, or by means of any animal, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
(Emphasis supplied)
4. Though, no authorities are available on the question whether human nails can be deemed to be an instrument for stabbing or cutting, at least four authorities are available on the point that human teeth are instruments for cutting within the meaning of section 324 of the Indian Penal Code. In the case of Chaurasi Manjhi and another vs. State of Bihar, AIR 1970 Patna 322, learned Single Bench of Patna High Court held as follows:
2. The relevant words in Sec. 324 of the Penal Code are :-
"Whoever ............ voluntarily causes hurt by means of any instrument for...... cutting ......... shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years or with fine or with both." The question is whether tooth is an instrument for cutting within the meaning of Section 324 of the Penal Code. There is no authority on the point either way. Some indication of it is to be found in an unreported decision of the Bombay High Court given by Beaumont, C.J. and Sen, J., in the book of Ratanlal and Dhirajlal "Law of Crimes", under Section 326 of the Penal Code. The case noticed there is that where a mistress refused to accompany her paramour, who got enraged and bit off the tip of her nose and dislocated one of her teeth, a sentence of two months' rigorous imprisonment was enhanced to one of fourteen months. It is, of course, not very clear from this line alone as to whether the biting on the tip of the hose was considered as a grievous injury caused by teeth or whether the dislocation of one of her teeth was caused by some other instrument. I cannot, therefore, be sure upon that line mentioned in the annotation of the book referred to above.
3. Considering the question, however, myself with reference to the meaning of the words "instrument" and "tooth" in Webster's Third New International Dictionary. I have come to the conclusion that tooth will be an instrument for cutting. According to the said dictionary, "instrument" means "a means whereby something is achieved, performed, or furthered". Although tooth is a part of the body, but there is no difficulty in taking the view that it is a means whereby something is achieved, performed or furthered, and, therefore, it can be characterised as an instrument within the meaning of Section 324 of the Penal Code as also under Section 326, if grievous injury is caused by tooth. According to the same dictionary "tooth" means "one of the hard bony appendages that are borne on the jaws or in many of the lower vertebrates or other bones in the walls of the mouth or pharynx and serve esp. for the prehension and mastication of food and as 'weapons of offence and defence" (the underlining (here in ' ') is mine). Reading the dictionary meaning the words "instrument" and "tooth" therefore, I have unhesitatingly come to the conclusion that for simple injury caused by tooth bite, the offender will be guilty under Section 324 of the Penal Code. If grievous injury is caused by such bite, he will be guilty under Section 326 of the Penal Code. In my opinion, therefore, petitioner Jagdish Manjhi has rightly been convicted under Section 324 of the Penal Code.
5. Allahabad High Court in the case of Jamil Hasan Vs. State, 1974 CRLJ 867 relying upon the case of Chaurasi Manjhi (supra) held that tooth is an instrument for cutting and serves as weapon of offence and defence and consequently, an injury caused by teeth bite would be an offence under section 324 or 326 depending upon whether the injury is simple or grievous, it was further observed that biting of tip of nose would be offence under section 326.
6. A division bench of Delhi High Court in the case of Jagat Singh and Anr.vs. State, 1984 CRLJ 1551, relying upon the judgments in the cases of Chaurasi Manghi (supra) and Jamil Hasan (supra) and held as hereunder:
“The question is whether tooth is an instrument for cutting within the meaning of S. 324 of the Penal Code. There is a difference of opinion whether the tooth is a weapon of cutting. In Jamil Hasan v. The State, 1974 Cri LJ 867 the Allahabad High Court held that tooth is an instrument for cutting. In Chaurasi Manjhi v. State of Bihar, AIR 1970 Pat 322 : (1970 Cri LJ 1235) Mr. Justice Untwalia held : "Tooth is instrument for cutting and serves as weapon of offence and defence. Injury by tooth- bite is offence under S. 324 or 326 depending upon whether injury is simple or grievous". Contrary view has been expressed in Gopalbhai Chhaganlal Soni v. State of Gujarat (1972)13 Guj LR 848. We are of the view that tooth is an instrument for cutting within the meaning of S. 324 of the Penal Code.”
7. It may be seen that Patna High Court, Allahabad High Court and Delhi High Court are in agreement on the point that an injury caused by teeth bite may qualify as hurt caused by means of an instrument for cutting for the purpose of section 324 of the Indian Penal Code. However, the Gujarat High Court in the case of Gopalbhai Chhaganlal Soni v. State of Gujarat (1972)13 Guj LR 848, has taken a contrary view. Though, this Court did not have benefit of going through the judgment rendered in the case of Gopalbhai (supra), from the view expressed by Patna High Court, Allahabad High Court and Delhi High Court, it may be deduced that to fall under the purview of section 324 of the Indian Penal Code, it is not necessary that an artificial implement, tool or a device must be used for causing injury for the purpose of section 324 IPC. Even an appendage of human body may cause an injury which may fall under the ambit of section 324.
8. However, the question to be considered in the case at hand is whether an injury caused by human nail may be deemed to be an injury caused by means of an instrument for stabbing or cutting?
9. It may be noted that there is intrinsic difference between the two sets of appendages of human body namely, the teeth and the nails. Teeth are hard, bony appendages growing out of upper and lower jaw bones and by their very nature much stronger than the nails. Whereas the upper set of teeth is fixed, the lower set, activated by strong jaw muscles, is adapted to move against the upper set facilitating a pincer like grip upon the object being bitten or chewed. As such, teeth are capable of chopping away parts of human body such as tip of nose, earlobes or in extreme cases even distal parts of small fingers. They are; therefore, capable of causing much graver injury to human body than human nails.
10. The human nail on the other hand is a thin, though hard, layer covering the outer tip of human fingers. It is made up of a translucent protein called keratin. By virtue of its constitution, it is weaker than a tooth. It is also somewhat flexible. Unless they are intentionally used for pinching, nails of fingers are ordinarily not used in coordination with each other. As a result they are not capable of exerting same amount of pressure as teeth. Therefore, in ordinary course they only cause abrasions or scratch marks. In the present case also, only an abrasion over right side of neck was found on the person of the victim.
11. Thus, a human nail cannot be placed on the same footing as tooth as a weapon of offence or defence. It cannot be deemed to be an instrument used for either cutting or stabbing. Hence, hurt caused by human nail may not qualify as an injury caused by means of an instrument for the purposes of section 324 of the Indian Penal Code.
12. In aforesaid view of the matter, learned Courts below erred in framing a charge of the offence punishable under section 324 of the IPC simply because one of the abrasions found upon the person of one of the victims was said to have been caused by nails. Thus, the charge framed under sections 324 or 324 read with section 34 of IPC against applicants/accused persons is not sustainable in the eyes of law and deserves to be quashed.
13. Consequently, this miscellaneous criminal case is allowed in part. The charge framed under sections 324 or 324 read with section 34 of IPC framed against applicants/accused persons is quashed. Learned trial Court shall proceed with the trial in respect of other offences.

(C V SIRPURKAR) JUDGE
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