Hurt – Its Type and Punishments


Shruti Lamba

‘Hurt’ is very common word that we hear about. Hurt is described as injuring, maiming, damaging, wounding, incapacitating, impairing, mutilating, and injuring. It means ‘to be damaging to‘ in another term. For a layman, ‘to hurt someone’ means ‘to inflict pain on someone’.

But if this general connotation is used in legal sense too, then courts will be flooded with thousands of cases on everyday basis because pain is a relative term that means different to each individual, thus people will approach courts according to their sense of understanding of pain.

To avoid this situation, this comprehensive term is defined exclusively by the lawmakers. The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter as IPC) classifies hurt broadly into:

  • Hurt, and
  • Grievous hurt

Section 319 to Section 338 of The Indian Penal Code explicitly provides for meaning and explanation for hurt and grievous hurt and its various forms.

Section 319 of IPC – Hurt

Section 319 of IPC defines hurt or simple hurt. Section 319 provides that:

“Hurt— Whoever causes bodily pain, disease or infirmity to any person is said to cause hurt.”

The definition above provides for wider sense and scope. In a way that it provides for not only bodily pain but for disease as well as infirmity.

Illustration: Mr. X punches Mr. Y in stomach several times resulting in Mr. Y being bedridden for a week. This is considered to be simple hurt under Section 319 IPC.

According to above definition following can be stated as essentials needed to cause hurt:

  • Bodily pain
  • Disease
  • Infirmity

The constituents of hurt herein are same as that of “battery” defined under English Law.

Bodily pain

The definition does not provide for direct physical contact to cause hurt, which gives the inference that if direct result of one’s acts causes bodily pain whatever be the means employed to cause it, it will be constituted to have caused ‘hurt’ as under Section 319 IPC.

In other words, if an act does not involve any physical contact but results in causing bodily pain it is still hurt. It only takes account of bodily injury caused the mental agony is not considered while considering hurt under Section 319 IPC. It is somehow a narrow sense because it excludes the mental pain and restricts the scope.

It is to be noted that if in absence of mens rea to cause death or grievous hurt a person causes death of another then that would amount to ‘hurt’ only under Section 319 IPC. The same principle has been held in the following leading cases.

In case of Dhani Ram v. Emperor[1], it was held that:

If the injury is not serious and there was no intention to cause death, nor had the accused knowledge that it was likely to cause death, or grievous hurt, the accused would be guilty of causing hurt only, even though death is caused.”

Also, in case of In Re Marana Goundan[2], it was held that:

In the absence of an intention to cause death, or grievous bodily hurt, where a person died as a result of two kicks on the abdomen, the accused was held guilty of causing hurt only…… Dragging a person by hair or fisting him falls under this section.”


The definition of hurt under IPC is not restricted to bodily pain only. Even communication or transfer of a particular disease by one person to another is included in the definition of hurt.

But there is no set principle as to when transmitting disease constitutes hurt, it has been contradictory till now, as various decisions have been passed by court which are in contradiction to one other.

In leading case of Raka v. Emperor[3], it was held that:

“A prostitute who had sexual connection with the complainant and thereby communicated syphilis, liable under section 269, IPC, for spreading of infection and not of causing hurt, because the interval between the act and disease was too remote to attract section.”

In the case of R v. Clarence[4], wherein there was transfer of sexual disease from husband to wife, it was held that:

The Court held that the husband was not guilty of hurt even though he had infected his wife with gonorrhea in spite of knowing his condition and being aware that she would not have had sexual intercourse with him had she known his condition.”


In literal sense, infirmity means a state of being weak or ill for a long period of time, especially caused due to old age. But under Section 319 IPC it means, inability of an organ to perform its normal function. It may be temporary inability or may be permanent in nature. It can also be referred to as a temporary mental impairment, hysteria or terror.

The term was explained in the leading case of Jashanmal Jhamatmal v. Brahmanand Sarupananda[5], it was held that:

The essence of this case is as follows. The accused landlord, in order to frighten the tenant’s wife, uttered a violent scream in the middle of the night and waved a pistol in front of the woman. The woman was shocked, hence collapsed, and was seriously ill for considerable time. It was held that this was within the meaning of temporary impairment or hysteria and hence the accused had caused infirmity and in turn, hurt. Infirmity denotes an unsound or unhealthy state of body or mind and clearly a state of temporary mental impairment or hysteria or terror would constitute infirmity within meaning of that expression in Section 319 IPC.”

Section 320 IPC – Grievous Hurt

On the basis of the gravity and intensity of physical assault inflicted the code has classified hurt into simple hurt and grievous hurt. As the name in itself suggests grievous hurt amounts to grave and more intense infliction of pain.

It is vital to classify hurt into simple hurt and grievous hurt because this classification would lead to awarding punishment to an accused as per the intensity of his act.

Section 320 IPC defines grievous hurt and also lists kinds of hurt which should be designated as grievous hurt. Section 320 provides as:

“Grievous hurt—The following kinds of hurt only are desig­nated as “grievous”: —

(First) — Emasculation.

(Secondly) —Permanent privation of the sight of either eye.

(Thirdly) — Permanent privation of the hearing of either ear,

(Fourthly) —Privation of any member or joint.

(Fifthly) — Destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint.

(Sixthly) — Permanent disfiguration of the head or face.

(Seventhly) —Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth.

(Eighthly) —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”.

Thus, to make out an offence of causing grievous hurt the act should come within any of the eight above enumerated kinds.

  1. Emasculation

It means depriving a man of his virility. In simple words it means to render a man impotent. It can be caused by causing such harm to a man’s scrotum which has the effect of rendering him impotent. The impotency so rendered must be permanent and should not be curable or temporary. This was included under the eight heads in order to curb the common practice in India where women tend to squeeze men’s’ testicles even on a slightest provocation.

Permanent Privation of the Sight of either eye

In simple words it can be understood as permanent injury to eyesight. It is to be kept in mind that such harm should have a permanent effect of deprivation from using either or both of the eyes. The test of gravity is the permanent effect of usage of eyesight and disfiguring the person.

Permanent Privation of the hearing of either ear

It means inflicting deafness. It can be understood as the everlasting hearing power of both ears and one ear. It causes the serious damage of depriving someone from his sense of listening. It is to be noted that the deprivation of the hearing should have a permanent effect to attract this provision. Even a blow on head may cause this harm of inflicting deafness.

Privation of any member or joint

It refers to loss of member or joint of a person leading him to a defenseless and depressing state. It inflicts the person with lifelong misery. The term member means a limb, or an organ and joint refer to an area where two or more bones meet, or muscle mass be a part of. There should be a permanent injury to limb or organ or joint causing them to be permanently stiff or in a state where they cannot perform their everyday assigned function in the body structure.

Destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint

It means impairing of member, limb or joint. It refers to disabling which means creating a permanent disability. It also includes lifelong crippling. The provision refers to permanent destruction of the power of the member or joint leading to deprivation for encompassing its particular use. It is to be noted that any permanent

Decrease of their utility constitutes grievous hurt.

Permanent disfiguration of the head or face

‘Disfigure’ means to cause such an external injury which detracts him from his personal appearance but does not weakens him. For example: throwing acid on the face of a woman, it leaves a permanent scar, amounts to disfiguration. In leading case of Gangaram v. State of Rajasthan[6], it was held that:

“cut at the bridge of the nostrils of a woman due to a sharp weapon has been held to be everlasting disfigurement despite the fact that the inner wall become intact, the act amounted to permanent disfiguration within the meaning of this clause and hence the injury was grievous.”

Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth

A fracture or dislocated bone can be mended or set or rejoined but due to the extreme suffering it causes to an individual, it is included in the eight kinds of grievous hurt. In order to attract this section, fracture must extend to the inner surface, mere wearing will not result to fracture under this section. There must be breakage of the bone.

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.

It can be generally said as dangerous hurt. It can be referred as hurt which cause severe bodily pain so as to unable a person from pursuing his ordinary life activities for twenty days.

Illustration: Mr. A administers poison in Mr. B’s food not with an intention of causing death but to render him unconscious for some time but it turns out to be Mr. B being in comma for a month. This shall amount to grievous hurt under the eighth kind.

Section 321 IPC – Voluntarily Causing Hurt

Section 321 IPC explains voluntarily causing hurt as:

“Whoever does any act with the intention of thereby causing hurt to any person, or with the knowledge that he is likely thereby to cause hurt to any person, and does thereby cause hurt to any person, is said “voluntarily to cause hurt”.

In simple words to constitute an offence of voluntarily causing hurt one of the two essential preconditions should be present viz: intention or knowledge.

Section 322 IPC – Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt

Section 322 IPC provides that:

“Whoever voluntarily causes hurt, if the hurt which he intends to cause or knows himself to be likely to cause is grievous hurt, and if the hurt which he causes is grievous hurt, is said ‘voluntarily to cause grievous hurt.’ Explanation—A person is not said voluntarily to cause grievous hurt except when he both causes grievous hurt and intends or knows himself to be likely to cause grievous hurt. But he is said voluntarily to cause grievous hurt, if intending or knowing him­self to be likely to cause grievous hurt of one kind, he actually causes grievous hurt of another kind”

The above explanation means that offence of grievous hurt is not caused unless the offender both causes grievous hurt and intends, or knows himself to be likely, to cause grievous hurt. The same has been held in the leading case of Ramkaran Mohton v. State[7]. Also, it does not matter which kind of grievous hurt the person intended to or had knowledge of inflicting, if he inflicts another kind which he did not intend than that shall also constitute to be an offence of voluntarily inflicting grievous hurt.

Illustration: A, intending or knowing himself to be likely permanently to dis­figure Z’s face, gives Z a blow which does not permanently dis­figure Z’s face, but which cause Z to suffer severe bodily pain for the space of twenty days. A has voluntarily caused grievous hurt.

Section 323 IPC – Punishment for Voluntarily Causing Hurt

Section 323 IPC provides punishment for voluntarily causing hurt as follows:

“Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”

Thus, the offence is:

  • Non- cognizable
  • Bailable
  • And can be tried by any magistrate
  • And punished with imprisonment of I year or fine or both.

Section 325 IPC – Punishment for Voluntarily Causing Grievous Hurt

Section 325 IPC provides for punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt as follows:

“Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 335, voluntarily causes grievous hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Thus, the offence is:

• Cognizable

• Bailable

• And can be tried by any magistrate

• And punished with imprisonment of 7 years and fine.

Difference between Hurt and Grievous Hurt

As per provisions of IPC hurt and grievous hurt are different concept. The terms can be differentiated on basis that:

  • Hurt per se is not punishable, hurt is punishable when accompanied by other offences. But grievous hurt is punishable in itself.
  • The offence of hurt is non-cognizable, bailable and triable by any magistrate.

The offence of grievous hurt is cognizable, bailable, compoundable with permission of the Court.

  • Injuries caused under Section 319 IPC (hurt) are general in sense like bodily pain, infirmities, and disease. Whereas injuries inflicted under Section 329 IPC (grievous hurt) are much more specific like loss of sight, loss of limb, etc.
  • The intensity and graveness of the act is much more in case of grievous hurt as compared to hurt and also the risk to life is more in case of grievous hurt.


After studying the statistics, it can be evidently observed that the Courts of Judicial First-Class Magistrate in India are flooded majorly with cases of ‘hurt’ and ‘grievous hurt’. There is no criminal court without these cases. To award appropriate punishment according to the gravity of the acts of the offender it is vital to understand and then differentiate between hurt and grievous hurt.

Keeping in mind the number of cases of hurt and grievous hurt lying pendent in the courts, it can be suggested that the current provisions need to be reformed and the scope of inclusion of acts to these definitions should be made more particular and be narrowed down but at the same time ensuring fair justice.

  1. Dhani Ram v. Emperor, (1913) 14 Cr. LJ 104
  2. In Re Marana Goundan, AIR 1941 Mad 560
  3. Raka v. Emperor, 1887 ILR 11 Bom 59
  4. R v. Clarence (1888) 22 QBD 23 (42-43) (HL),
  5. Jashanmal Jhamatmal v. Brahmanand Sarupananda, AIR 1944 Sind 19
  6. Gangaram v. State of Rajasthan, 1984 Cr LJ (NOC) 180 (Raj),
  7. Ramkaran Mohton v. State, AIR 1958 Pat 452.


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