Battery refers to the intentional application of force by one person to another person. Battery under the civil law is considered as a tort and under criminal law is considered as an offence. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 classifies battery as an offence under the title criminal force. Section 350 of the IPC defines criminal force.
Battery: a tort and an offence-
Chapter XVI of the IPC deals with the offences affecting the human body. Sections 349 and 350 under this Chapter provide definitions for Force and Criminal Force respectively.
The definition of force as provided for under Section 349 of IPC includes the following ingredients-
1. A person using the force should cause motion, change of motion or cessation of motion to another person
2. Such motion can be caused either directly or to any substance which is brought into contact with any part of that other person’s body, or his wearing or carrying, or with any of his sense of feeling
3. Such motion, change of motion or cessation of motion is caused in either of the prescribed 3 ways-
a. By his own bodily power
b. By disposing any substance in relation to such act
c. By inducing an animal to do such act
In Bihari Lal[i], it was observed that “‘ Force’ as defined in clause (1) i.e. force induced by one’s bodily power, contemplates the presence of the person to whom it is used, that is to say, it contemplates the presence of the person using the force and of the person to whom the force is used.” Therefore, physical person of the person causing force is essential only in case of the first way and not in cases involving the second and third ways as above-mentioned.
This definition provided under the Code recognises that any use of force caused to other person may become an offence if such use of force qualifies to be covered under the ambit of definition of criminal force as provided under Section 350 of IPC.
Section 350 of IPC defines criminal force and it should include the following essentials to be considered as an offence-
1. Intentional use of force by one person to any other person
2. Such use of force is inflicted on the other person without his consent
3. The force must have been used to achieve either of the following-
4. To commit an offence; or
5. With the intention to cause or knowing it to be likely that he will cause injury, fear or annoyance to the other person against whom such use of force is inflicted.
Therefore, this section clarifies that Force as under section 349 of IPC to become criminal force, the intention of the person using such force to commit an offence or to cause injury to the other person must be considered. Further, the ingredients of section 350 of IPC as discussed above signifies that it includes the wrong of ‘battery’ as considered under the English law.[ii]
In the case of P. Kader v. K. A. Alagarswami,[iii]the Madras High Court considered the act of the police officer of putting handcuffs on an under-trial prisoner and then chaining him like a dangerous animal with a neighbouring window in a hospital during his medical treatment is an unjustifiable use of force. Further, it was held that in such case, there is no need to prove any intention on the part of the police officer, because if the police officer has exceeded his authority, the act would be mala fide, unless he can plausibly contend that the circumstances justified such use of force.
In the light of afore-mentioned provisions and cases, it is pertinent that there exists no difference between battery under common law and criminal force under criminal law. The difference can only be drawn from the remedies available under civil law, which are compensatory in nature and criminal law, which are punitive in nature.
In Pursell v. Horn[iv], it was observed that a battery will be preceded by an act of assault, where a person throws water on the other person, till the waterfalls on the targeted person; it amounts to be an act of assault. The moment water touches the body or any part of the body of the targeted person, the act amounts to battery.
Further, in Hopper v. Reeve[v], it was observed that if a person pulls the chair while the other person is about to sit on the chair, till the other person falls and touches the ground, the act will be considered as an assault and if the other person touches the ground, the act becomes a battery.
However, the existence of assault as a preceding act in all cases of battery is not essential, because in certain cases of battery apprehension of such act may not have been done by the victim. Further, apprehension of injury is not essential to constitute either an offence of criminal force or a tort of battery. Therefore, there exists no difference between the terms battery and criminal force, except that, the former is used in the common law and the latter is used in the IPC.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can assault and battery be considered as one crime?
Assault and battery remain to be two distinctive crimes though the former precedes the latter in most of the cases. The charges for both the offences are laid down separately by the court in case of trial.
What is the punishment for Battery?
Punishment for the offence of battery is provided under Section 352 of IPC which prescribes imprisonment which may extend up to the term of 3 months or fine of Rupees Five Hundred or both.
Is there any exception for the offence of battery?
The use of force in cases of grave and sudden provocation to mitigate the offence is an exception to the commission of the offence of criminal force as defined under Section 350 of IPC. The exception is provided under the Explanation to Section 352 if IPC.
Edited by – Sakshi Agarwal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i](1934) 15 Lah 786,789.
[ii] Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, The Indian Penal Code, 395 (27th Edition, 1995), Wadhwa & Company, Nagpur.
[iii]AIR 1965 Mad. 438
[iv] (1838) 8 A. & E. 602
[v] (1817) Taunt. 698