Kerala man kills son with iron rod for attacking him: Will private defence apply?

Palakkad police are investigating the case to ascertain whether the crime was committed in private defence, as claimed by the accused – 62-year-old Mathai.
Kerala man kills son with iron rod for attacking him: Will private defence apply?
Kerala man kills son with iron rod for attacking him: Will private defence apply?

A senior citizen in Kerala's Palakkad district was arrested after he bludgeoned his son to death on Tuesday night. Mathai, a 62-year-old resident of Kannambra village near Vadakkanchery, was taken into custody by the local police early Wednesday morning, hours after he struck his son Basil – who was reportedly drunk – with an iron rod, after which the latter died. The victim had returned home heavily inebriated and began physically attacking his parents over a family feud, Mathai told the police.

According to the police, Basil was a nurse who had been working in Israel. He had returned to his hometown in Palakkad nine months ago, and would regularly get drunk and pick quarrels with his mother and father. "On Tuesday night, things got out of hand as Basil came home and pushed his unwell mother to the floor. This is when Mathai says he intervened and hit his son," DYSP KM Devasia, who is leading the investigating team, told TNM. 

As per Mathai's statements to the police, he acted in his right to private defence, claiming that his son was weidling an iron rod and would have attacked him and his wife, killing them on the spot.

"He said that he grabbed the iron rod from Basil's hand and hit him, after which he went to a neighbour's house and informed them about the incident. The neighbour in turn alerted the police, who inspected the crime scene and took Mathai into custody," Devasia added.

Currently, a case has been registered against Mathai under Section 302 (punishment for murder). However, based on further investigations, the police will ascertain if the accused's right to private defence under Section 100 of the IPC can be invoked in the case.

Section 100 of the Indian Penal Code says: "The right of private defence of the body extends to the voluntary causing of death or of any other harm to the assailant." The law comes to the aid of anybody who has exercised the right to protect oneself from an assault which could have led to death, grievous hurt, rape, kidnapping or abduction, wrongful confinement, etc.

Based on the probe thus far, Palakkad police say that the intent behind Mathai's crime does not suit the requirements to invoke Section 100.

"He is claiming that he did it to protect himself and his wife. However, if that was the intent, he had other options such as locking himself and his wife in a room to protect themselves against the attack; they could have also exited their residence and locked up their son inside. Presently, it appears that the intent behind Mathai's actions was murder. Therefore, we have registered a case under Section 302," Devasia clarified.

Speaking to TNM, Palakkad Rural SP G Siva Vikram IPS said that the prosecuting agency could invoke Section 100 in the case if they were convinced that the accused had invoked his right to private defence. On the other hand, the accused could also approach the court and the court in turn could direct the investigating officers to look into the claim.

There have been several well-known cases in the past, particularly from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, where the accused have not been jailed as the court found that they had exercised their right to private defence. Among them is the case of Usha Rani, an investment banker in Madurai, who in 2012 had killed her husband in order to protect her daughter from being molested by him.

In another case in 2017 from Tamil Nadu, a 65-year-old woman from Sivagangai district in Tamil Nadu hacked her own son to death. The son, 47-year-old Veerasamy, had begun beating up his daughter for resisting his advances. Unable to witness the assault any longer, the 65-year-old grandmother picked up a sickle and struck him. The accused was later released after it was ascertained that she had killed him to protect her granddaughter.

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