October 2, 2022

Does toothbite amount to hurt?

Laws on Hurt

Section 324 of IPC provides that-

“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.” 

 Does tooth come under the category of instrument?

In the case of Chaurasi Manjhi v. State of Bihar (1969), Patna high observed that according to the meaning of words ‘instrument’ and ‘tooth’ in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, the tooth will be considered as an instrument of cutting.

According to 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 on 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”.

Therefore, Hon’ble High Court came at 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.

High court also referred an unreported decision given by Bombay High Court, which was mentioned in the book ‘Law of crimes’ by Ratanlal and Dhirajlal under Section 326. This case was that where a mistress refused to accompany her paramour, he 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.

But in this case, it was not clear from this line alone as to whether the biting on the tip of the nose was considered as a grievous injury caused by teeth or whether the dislocation of one of her teeth was caused by some other instrument. Therefore, the Patna High Court did not rely on this decision.

Reference

Chaurasi Manjhi And Anr. vs State Of Bihar, AIR 1970 Pat 322, 1970 CriLJ 1235