De minimis non curat lex
Section 95 of the IPC is based on the doctrine de minimis non curat lex (the law takes no account of trifles).
This section is intended to provide for those cases which, though, from the imperfections of language, they fall within the letter of the penal law, are yet not within its spirit, and are all over the world considered by the public, and for the most part dealt with by the tribunals, as innocent.
Section 95 provides:
“Nothing is an offence by reason that it causes, or that it is intended to cause, or that it is known to be likely to cause, any harm, if that harm is so slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm.”
The object of framing s. 95 was to exclude from the operation of the Penal Code those cases which from the imperfection of language may fall within the letter of the law, but are not within its spirit and are considered, and for the most part dealt with by the Courts, as innocent.
However, harm caused by doing an act with intent to cause harm or with the knowledge that harm may be caused thereby, will not fall within the terms of s. 95.
Application of the section
The section applies if the act
- causes harm or
- is intended to cause harm or
- is known to be likely to cause harm,
- provided the harm is so slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm.
Meaning of the word “Harm”
The expression “harm” has not been defined in the ‘Indian Penal Code: in its dictionary meaning it connotes hurt, injury; damage; impairment, moral wrong or evil.
Use of the word ‘Harm’ in Indian penal code
The expression “harm” is used in many sections of the Indian Penal Code.
- In ss. 81, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92, 100, 104 and 106 the expression can only mean physical injury.
- In s. 93 it means an injurious mental reaction.
- In s. 415 it means injury to a person in body, mind, reputation or property.
- In ss. 469 and 499 harm, it is plain from the context, is to the reputation of the aggrieved party.
Standard or degree of harm under Section 95
Section 95 is intended to prevent penalisation of negligible wrongs or of offences of trivial character.
Whether an act which amounts to an offence is trivial would undoubtedly depend upon the nature of the injury, the position of the parties, the knowledge or intention with which the offending act is done, and other related circumstances.
There can be no absolute standard or degree of harm which may be regarded as so slight that a person of ordinary sense and temper would not complain of the harm.
It cannot be judged solely by the measure of physical or other injury the act causes.
A soldier assaulting his colonel, a, policeman assaulting his Superintendent, or a pupil beating his teacher, commit offences, the heniousness of which cannot be determined merely by the actual injury suffered by the officer or the teacher, for the assault would be wholly subversive of discipline.
An assault by one child on another, or even by a grown-up person on another, which causes injury may still be regarded as so slight, having regard to the way and station of life of the parties, relation between them, situation in which the parties are placed, and other circumstances in which harm is caused that the victim ordinarily may not complain of the harm.
- Mrs. Veeda Menezes vs Yusuf Khan,1966 AIR 1773, 1966 SCR 123