Defence of Duress: Rethinking the Exception of Murder under Section 94​?​

Neeraja Barve
NMIMS Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, Mumbai, India.

Volume III, Issue VI, 2020

Duress as a defence has been a contentious one for decades now. Under section 94 of the Indian Penal Code, murder and offences against the state are exceptions under the defence of duress. This paper discusses the moral and legal standing of such an exception. Certain jurisdictions in Australia have granted the defence of duress in a case of murder contradicting the age-old rationale that no person is allowed to take the life of another. This high moral standard attached to the defence of duress gives rise to the ‘victim-victimizer’ paradox. A person under duress is expected to display the quality of ‘heroism’ by sacrificing his own life to save that of another whereas in every other aspect of criminal law a person is only held to the standard of a ‘reasonable man’.  The paper argues that although acquitting the accused under such circumstances may widen the ‘moral-legal’ gap, the defence od duress must be accepted to reduce the crime of murder to culpable homicide.