OFFENCE OF WRONGFUL RESTRAINT UNDER INDIAN LAW
Through this article we attempt to discuss the offence of Wrongful Restraint under the purview of Indian Penal code, highlighting the key ingredients and bringing clarity on the terms “voluntarily’ and “obstruction”.
The Constitution of India confers the right to freedom of movement to every person freely throughout the territory of India and guarantee personal liberty under article 19 and 21 respectively. To safeguard the individual, right to liberty against deprivation by an individual or groups other than state, the penal code has made wrongful restraint and wrongful confinement under sections 339 to 348 I.P.C. there offences under English law are often regarded as false imprisonment.
Section 339 of the Indian Penal code defines wrongful restraint as:
Whoever voluntarily obstructs any person, so as to prevent that person from proceeding in any direction in which that person has a right to proceed, is said to wrongfully restraint that person.
A obstructs a path along which Z has a right to pass. A, not believing in good faith that he has a right to stop the path. Z is thereby prevented from passing. A wrongfully restraints Z.
Therefore, wrongful restraint means obstructing a man from moving from one place to another where he has the right to be and wants to go. Malice, is not a necessary element of the offence under this section. Restraint means an abridgement of the liberty of a person against his will.
To hold a person liable for wrongful restraint, the obstruction must be:
1) Voluntary obstruction of a person, and;
2) The obstruction must be such as to prevent that person from proceeding in any direction in which he has the right to proceed.
DETAILED ANALYSIS OF SECTION:
(i) Voluntary obstruction:
What the section contemplates is that there must be an obstruction attributable directly to the person charged the obstructer must intend or know or have reason to believe it to be likely that means adopted by him would cause obstruction to the complainant.
In Arumuga Nadar Vs. Emperor (1910) 11 Cr. LJ 708 (Mad), the court held that where the complainant and his wife and daughter occupied a house and during their temporary absence, the accused put a lock on outer door and, thereby, obstructed from getting into the house, it was held the accused was guilty of wrongful restraint.
(ii) Nature of obstruction contemplated under the section:
In wrongful restraint, the complete stoppage of movement is not necessary as mere obstruction intending to restrict the movement of a person in a particular direction would also qualify or a wrongful restraint. Obstruction contemplated by the section, though physical may be caused by use of menaces and threats as well.
The offence is determined by the effect caused and not by the nature of the act by which it is brought about. For instance, in Telapolu Sabbadu (1884) 1 Weir 340, the court held that when the accused removed the ladder, and, thereby, detained a person on the roof of the house, he was held to cause obstruction within the meaning of the section.
Good faith defence to wrongful restraint. If the obstruction is made in good faith and the accused believes himself to have a lawful right to obstruct, no offence is committed, as stated in the exception clause appended to the section. For instance, in case of Sovarani Roy v. King AIR 1950 Cal 157, the court held that if the accused believes in good faith that he has a right to prevent the complainant from passing over his land, he cannot be convicted for the offence of wrongful restraint.
Punishment for wrongful restraint (Section 341):
Whoever wrongfully restrains any person, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees or with both.
Thus, by this penal provision, individual freedom to move as guaranteed in the constitution of India is adequately safeguarded.