A person cannot be expected to act in a cowardly manner when faced with an imminent threat to life and has got every right to kill the aggressor in self defence, the Supreme Court has held.
Such a killing is permissible under the law and cannot be equated with murder, a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Asok Kumar Ganguly said.
"The law does not require a law-abiding citizen to behave like a coward when confronted with an imminent unlawful aggression. As repeatedly observed by this court there is nothing more degrading to the human spirit than to run away in face of danger.
"The right of private defence is thus designed to serve a social purpose and deserves to be fostered within the prescribed limits," the Bench said a judgement.
The apex court passed the judgement while acquitting a convict, Darshan Singh, of the murder of his uncle Gurcharan Singh on July 15, 1991 in Punjab's Ludhiana district over a land dispute.
Darshan Singh shot dead Gurcharan Singh after the latter attacked the accused's father Bakthawar Singh with a lethal weapon on the head and then proceeded to attack him. In the scuffle that ensued Darshan Singh shot dead Gurcharan Singh.
The sessions court had acquitted him on the ground that Darshan Singh had exercised his right of self defence provided under Sections 96-106 of the IPC.
However, on an appeal from the state, the acquittal was reversed and the High Court sentenced the accused to life imprisonment following which he appealed in the apex court.