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As defined by Merriam Webster ‘grievous’ is something ‘characterized by severe pain or suffering.’ The Oxford Dictionary follows a similar route and explains ‘grievous’ as something that ‘causes great


As defined by Merriam Webster ‘grievous’ is something ‘characterized by severe pain or suffering.’ The Oxford Dictionary follows a similar route and explains ‘grievous’ as something that ‘causes great pain or difficulty.The Indian Penal Code, 1860 illustrates what constitutes grievous hurt under section 320, following the previous one that lays the concept of ‘hurt’. A detailed reading of section 319 is required to differentiate between the two.

What is meant by ‘Hurt’?

A glance at section 319 indicates that it does not pinpoint any offence in particular. It simply says, “Whoever causes bodily pain, disease or infirmity to any person is said to cause hurt”. The definition employs four expressions, that need to be understood in particular:

·       ‘Bodily Pain’: The pain inflicted must be ‘physical’ rather than being ‘mental’ or any other kind. Emotional hurting does not constitute an offence under this section. It must also be noted that the pain need not be in form of some visible injury. Moreover, the severity of pain is also not a decisive factor for this provision. All it considers is the fact that bodily pain has been induced in a person.

·       ‘Causing Disease’: Communicating or transferring disease to another person, via physical contact is said to be causing disease. However, precedents remain unclear on the subject of venereal diseases. For instance, in Raka v. Emperor, a prostitute who communicates a sexually transmitted disease to another is held liable under section 269 (‘negligent acts which are likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life’)instead of section 319.

·       ‘Infirmity’: It refers to an unfit state of the body, which might be caused due to some disease or due to the consumption of any poisonous/deleterious drug or alcohol. Infirmity has been so far construed to mean the malfunctioning of an organ or its inability to operate naturally, by courts. It is quite immaterial if the inability is transient or otherwise.

·       ‘Any person’: The hurt caused must be to ‘some person’ who must not be the one causing hurt. It must also be understood that any injury inflicted upon oneself does not come within the domain of this section.

What is meant by ‘Grievous Hurt’?

Section 320 constitutes an exhaustive list of eight clauses—all specific, except the last— which are meant to be interpreted strictly. This implies that the said provision will be rendered inapplicable in cases where the hurt does not fall within the bracket of these eight clauses.

  • “Emasculation”

It is the process of removal of male genitals—whether consensually, accidentally, or punitively. In a general sense, it might refer to the loss of a man’s masculinity. This clause does not apply to females. It must be acknowledged that the accused will be held liable despite the possibility of the victim regaining his sexual vigor.

  • “Permanent privation of the sight of either eye”

“Privation”, as defined by Oxford Dictionary, means ‘the loss of basic things essential for living a life’. This clause applies not only to the loss of vision but also to the loss of quality of vision. The injury must, however, be permanent, in nature. Otherwise, it will not be considered ‘grievous’.

  • “Permanent privation of the hearing of either ear”

An injury that might lead to permanent deafness falls under the ambit of this clause. It might be the result of a heavy blow to the head or the insertion of a hazardous substance into the ear cavity.

  • “Privation of any member or joint”

“Member” refers to any organ/structure of the body, especially a limb, whereas, “joint” is an articulation between two bones in the body, and a grievous hurt is caused when any such organ or articulation is injured permanently.

  • “Destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint”

Under this clause, loss or destruction or permanent impairment of any organ constitutes a grievous hurt. It might be the loss of an arm, leg, or even a little finger.

  • “Permanent disfiguration of the head or face”

“Disfiguration” connotes the spoiling of the external appearance of something, in this case, the head or face. The disfiguration, so caused, must be permanent, but it need not lead to a temporary or permanent impact on the functioning of any organ.

  • “Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth”

Breaking of any bone is known as a “fracture”. For this section, however, the cracking or cutting of a bone is also considered the same. A dislocation of bone, joint, or a tooth also constitutes a grievous hurt.

  • “Any hurt which endangers life or which causes the sufferer to be during the space of twenty days in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits.”
    1. ‘Endangers life’: This clause covers all injuries that might be threatening to life.
    2. ‘Severe bodily pain during the space of 20 days’: A hurt does not automatically convert into a grievous kind merely because of hospitalization of a person beyond the scope of 20 days.
    3. ‘Inabilityto follow ordinary pursuits’: The injured person must be rendered unable to pursue ordinary activities, for the hurt to be considered ‘grievous’.
When is a Grievous Hurt said to be Caused Voluntarily?

Section 322 states that “whoever ‘voluntarily’ causes hurt if the hurt which he—intends to cause or knows himself to be likely to cause is ‘grievous’—and the hurt which he ‘causes’ is grievous hurt, is said ‘voluntarily to cause grievous hurt’.”

The explanation provided in this section stresses two points:

  1. To be held culpable under this section, a person must have the ‘intention or knowledge of the possibility of causing such grievous hurt and must have ‘caused’ it.
  2. In case, where an accused had aimed or anticipated to be likely causing hurt of one nature and ended up causing hurt of an entirely different one, he is still punishable under this provision.

For instance: A person, aiming to permanently disfigure someone’s face, unintentionally ends up breaking two of his teeth. The former has caused grievous hurt voluntarily.

What is the Punishment for Causing Grievous Hurt Voluntarily?

Upon conviction under section 325, the offender shall be penalized with a certain amount of fine along with a sentence that may last up to seven years. This offence is cognizable as well as bailable, but only compoundable by the person who was grievously hurt. The case can be tried by any magistrate.   It must be noted that this section (as well as Section 326) exempts circumstances involving grievous hurt caused under grave provocation, which is dealt with by section 335—where a gentler punishment is so proposed by the legislature.

Other kinds of Grievous Hurt and their Punishments

Grievous hurt is further differentiated into eight more branches in the upcoming sections to deal with grievous hurt of different nature and purposes:

1)     “Causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or dangerous means”

When a person is found guilty under section 326, (s)he is held liable to pay a certain fine as well as serve a term of ten years, which may extend for a lifetime. This offence is neither bailable nor compoundable. It is, however, cognizable and triable by any magistrate.

2)     “Causing grievous hurt by acid”

In addition to a fine—which is to be paid directly to the victim, to bear their medical expenses—a person held liable under section 326A might be sentenced to ten years or a lifetime. If held liable under section 326B, the accused shall be imprisoned for a term of five to seven years along with a reasonable fine.

Both these sections are cognizable and triable by the Court of Sessions. Neither of them is bailable or compoundable.

3)     “Causing grievous hurt to extort property, or to constrain to an illegal act”

The prescribed punishment under section 329 is imprisonment for 10 years, which may extend to a lifetime, along with a fine. This cognizable offence is triable by the sessions court. However, it is non-bailable as well as non-compoundable.

4)     “Causing grievous hurt to extort confession or compel restoration of property”

A sentence of 10 years along with a fine is prescribed under section 331, for this cognizable offence. The case is neither bailable nor compoundable but is triable by the sessions court.

5)     “Causing grievous hurt to deter public servant”

The punishment is similar for an offence under section 333, quite like the above, i.e., imprisonment for ten years along with a fine. The wrongdoer can be tried by the sessions court. Although cognizable, this offence is neither bailable nor compoundable.

6)     “Causing grievous hurt on provocation”

Serving as a proviso to sections 324 as well as 326, section 335 offers a lighter punishment of either a fine of two thousand rupees or imprisonment up to four years or both. Unlike others mentioned above, this offence is bailable as well as compoundable by the grievously injured person. It can be tried by any magistrate of first class.

7)     “Causing grievous hurt by endangering life or personal safety of others”

An even lower punishment is suggested under section 338, which is a fine of a mere thousand rupees or a sentence of a maximum of two years or both. With the permission of the court, this bailable offence is compoundable by the person to whom the said injury is caused. This too can be tried by a magistrate of first class.


A comparative analysis tells us that punishments prescribed for acts causing ‘grievous hurt’ are stricter than that of acts causing ordinary ‘hurt’, and rightly so. The term of imprisonment as well as the amount of the fine is left up to the prudence of the court. Most of these punishments are non-bailable, except for Sections 325, 335, and 338. Such strict provisions reflect upon the grave nature of the injury caused and serve to deter persons in society from doing it.

Author(s) Name: Shalini Goswami (Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur University,Gorakhpur)