Force, Criminal Force And Assault Under I.P.C. and Distinction Between Them – Explain


This article deals with the terms “force”, “criminal force” and “assault” in the Indian Penal Code 1860. In India, we can always see the news about crimes in regards to battery, assault etc. such crimes are common in our country and it happens almost every day. Because of this people were facing many problems, therefore for ensuring strict punishment to those who committed such crimes, our Government had to step, thus such crimes can be reduced. Besides, the article also focuses on the distinction between criminal force and assault and also the important decisions made by courts.

FORCE (Section-349)

The term ‘force’ in IPC examines force used by a human being on another human being. It does not contemplate force against inanimate objects. Force means efficacy and signifies strength, vigour, might, energy, power, violence, armament, necessity.

A definition close to the exact meaning of ‘force’ is violence, the power exerted against will or consent. It does not constitute any offence but section 349 of IPC merely explains what amounts to force. It is necessary to understand what force is, to understand the definition of criminal force.

Section 349 provides that “A person is said to use force to another if he causes motion, change of motion, or cessation of motion to that other, or if he causes to any substance such motion, or change of motion, or cessation of motion as brings that substance into contact with any part of that other’s body, or with anything which that other is wearing or carrying, or with anything so situated that such contact affects that others’ sense of feeling:

Provided that the person causing the motion, or change of motion, or cessation of motion, causes that motion .change of motion or cessation of motion in one of three ways hereinafter describe:-

Firstly:– By his own bodily power.

Secondly:– By disposing of any substance in such a manner that the motion or change or cessation of motion takes place without any further act on his part, or on the part of any other person.

Thirdly:– By inducing any animal to move, to change its motion, or to cease to move.”

CRIMINAL FORCE (Section- 350)

The term criminal force is defined in section 350 of IPC. And criminal force uses the meaning of force in section 349 as for more clarity to section 350. Section 350 of IPC provides what is criminal force; as if someone intentionally uses force to any person, without that person’s consent, in order to the committing of any offence, and the use of such force by intention to cause, or knowing that such force will cause injury to that person whom the force is to be used, or cause fear or annoyance, is said to use criminal force to that other.


  1. A person X encourages a dog to jump upon Y without Y’s consent. Here, if X intends to cause injury, fear or annoyance to Y, he uses criminal force to  X.
  2. A person A is bathing, B another one poured boiling water into the bathing water by knowing it is boiling water. This shows the intention of A to bring that water in contact with B which affects his sense of feeling A has, therefore, intentionally used force to B; and if he has done this without B’s consent intending or knowing it to be likely that he may thereby cause injury, A has used criminal force.


Criminal force constitutes the following essentials:

  1. There must be use of force.
  2. The force should be used intentionally.
  3. The force must have been used;

a. For committing of an offence; or

b. With the intention to cause fear, injury or annoyance to the other with knowledge.

From this, we understood that the use of force is mandatory but mere force is not punishable under law. Section 349 defines force but it is not treated as an offence. That can be used in a positive sense also;

Eg:  If someone uses force to protect someone from falling down, to protect from an injury. It is not an offence. Hence, criminal force requires more than the use of force. They are:-


The meaning of consent is provided in section 90 of IPC. The act of using force must be without the consent of the person to whom such force is being used. The terms “without consent” and “ against his will” are different. “Without consent” means there is a physical and active opposition and “against his will” means there is a mental and active opposition. Thus, the law requires the accused to be without consent.


The word intentional excludes all voluntary, accidental or even negligent acts from the ambit of criminal force.

Eg: when a person negligently or carelessly pulls the veil of a woman, even though without consent as it was not an intentional act of force, neither I sit for committing an offence nor it is caused by an intention or knowledge to cause injury or fear or annoyance.

Thus the act cannot be considered as a criminal force.


To prove that there was the use of criminal force, the presence of the person against whom the force is to be alleged to be used is mandatory. Thus, the law does not consider the act as a force when a thief broke into a house whose owner is not present there. There is no external force used upon the person. It is not done without any use of force.

If the force does not cause any injury; it is constituted as a criminal force as it is executed with a mental element, and is externally acted to achieve the results. And the mere fact that the result was somehow escaped by some act will be immaterial.

Eg:- the accused tried to beat a person with a stick and raise it with force against the victim, but the victim escaped and frustrated the achievement of the intended result. It will not be called a mere force.

Thus, the cause of injury or hurt is immaterial when other essentials of section 350 satisfy, ie; the intention or knowledge is enough.

ASSAULT (Section- 351)

According to Tomlins Law Dictionary, assault is “ an attempt with force and violence, to do corporate hurt to another as by sticking at him with or without a weapon. But no words whatsoever, be they even so provoking can amount to an assault, notwithstanding the many ancient opinions to contrary”

Section 351 provides that: If a person makes any gesture, or any preparation by knowing and with the intention that it will cause apprehension in the mind of the person present there. It is the use of criminal force to that person. It is said to commit an assault.

Explanation:– Mere words do not amount to an assault. But the words which a person uses may give to his gestures or preparations amount to an assault.”


  • A person A untied the wrap of a vicious dog by knowing it will cause harm on B. So A has committed an assault upon B.
  • X shows clenched fist at Y which causes an apprehension in the mind of Y that  X is about to strike Y. X has committed an assault.


  1. Gestures or preparation:- that the accused should make a gesture or preparation to use criminal force.
  2. Such gestures or preparation should be made in the presence of the person in respect of whom it is made.
  3. The act was with an intention to cause an apprehension of harm or injury;
  4. The act caused apprehension in the eyes of the victim that he would be harmed by another person’s action.

Assault is a non-cognizable offence, bailable and compoundable. It is triable by any Magistrate.

Following are some instances of assault:

  1. Throwing brick into another’s house.
  2. Advancing with a threatening attitude to strike.
  3. Pointing of a gun on someone at a short distance. If it is loaded or unloaded is immaterial.
  4. Lifting one’s lathi.


Section 352 of IPC provides punishment for assault or use of criminal force when there are no aggravating circumstances provided in sections 353 to 358.

When someone assaults or uses criminal force on another by the grave and sudden provocation by another person, he may be sentenced to imprisonment which may extend to three months, or fine up to INR 500, or both. It is defined under section 352.


Ramakant Rajaram v. Manuel Fernandes

Here court observed that when the motion is caused or change in motion caused, or cessation of motion is caused to the external object or substance or thing which is in possession or in contact, it does not affect that person, then it cannot be considered as force, it will not be the use of force.

Chandrika Sao  v. State of Bihar

In this case, the lower court rejected the argument that merely snatching the book away from the hands of the official, which he was in the official’s possession at that time, was not a use of force. The Supreme court observed otherwise, saying that the snatching of the book was capable of fulfilling the essence of section 349. The book which was in possession of the official was caused to have a motion or change in motion by mere snatching it; this affects a sensation of feeling to the official’s hands. Therefore it is the use of force by the accused.

Nani Gopal Das v. Bhima charan Rakshit 

The court stated that the presence of the person whom the force is alleged to be used is mandatory to prove that there was the use of force or criminal force.

Bihari Lal v. Emperor

In this case, the court observed that in criminal force the physical presence of a person, against whom the criminal force is alleged to be used is required.


  1. It is the use of intentional force on any person to cause any injury or harm or fear of injury.
It denotes the preparatory acts which cause apprehension of use of criminal force against the person.
2. Even use of criminal force includes an assault. There is an apprehension of use of force only and no use of real force.
3. Physical contact exists. There is no physical contact.
4. The action of the wrongdoer is completed. It is an attempt to commit criminal force.
5. In criminal force, assault is consummated by means and ability of that person. In assault, the accused must be having enough means and ability to carry his threat into the intended result.
6. No belief of ability is needed. The application of force is actionable even though it is the slightest amount of force. It is necessary that the person assaulted believes that the assaulting person has the ability to apply the force so attempted by him, on reasonable grounds.
7. It has something more in it as the intentional application of force to the person of another without lawful justification is necessary. It is an overt act indicating sudden intention to commit criminal force coupled with the capacity of carrying out the intention into effect.
8. As soon as the thrown falls on the person, it becomes a criminal force. Throwing water upon a person is an assault.
9. More serious form of offence when compared to assault. A less serious form offenece compared to criminal force.
10. Force is defined under section 349 and criminal force under section 350 of IPC. Defined under section 351 of IPC.


Basically, assault is the apprehension that the other person is going to get hurt. It is done to another person with the use of criminal force with an intention to harm the other person. Nowadays, such offenses are common, so there is a need of strict laws regarding this even though they are less serious offences. The law should be implemented properly so that every person is protected by law. This article focused on the explanation of the terms force, criminal force and assault in IPC and its punishment. Not the aggravated forms of assault are discussed here. Besides this, the article shows the distinction between criminal force and assault that gives a clear idea about the concept.


  2. Law Of Crimes [ Indian Penal Code, 1860], Dr. SR Myneni, 3rd Edition

This Article is Author by Adhithya KP, B.B.A LL.B Student at Nehru Academy Of Law, Palakkad.

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