Section 339 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Explained!
According to the section the obstruction must be voluntarily and the person obstructed must be prevented to proceed in any direction in which he has a right to proceed. A person may obstruct another by actually obstructing him as well as by making it appear to the other that it would be dangerous or impossible or difficult for him to proceed in the direction in which he wishes to proceed.
Where a tenant lawfully locks the premises after closing the same and the landlord puts another lock on it unlawfully with a view to prevent the tenant from entering, the landlord is guilty of committing the offence of wrongful restraint. Removing a ladder and thereby forcing a person to remain confined on the roof of a house is wrongfully restraining him. Right to pass through a road lawfully being a right, preventing persons to carry a dead body lawfully through a road is wrongful restraint, and it is no defence to say that the persons carrying the dead body were free to go anywhere without the dead body.
The Kerala High Court is of the view that preventing customers to visit liquor shops by picketing outside such shops under an action plan by Sarvodaya workers does not warrant concern as the same is done in discharge of fundamental duties and causes only a slight harm. There is a scope for a difference of opinion on this ruling.
Where the complainant, his wife and daughter had gone out of their home for a temporary period and the accused put a lock on the outer door with a view to obstruct the complainant and his family members from entering, it was held that the landlord committed wrongful restraint. Where the accused obstructed the complainant to pass through a particular pathway along with his bulls by striking the bulls away from the path, the accused was held to have committed wrongful restraint as the complainant had a right to pass along with his bulls through the way.
In Keso Sahu v. Saligram Shah the petitioners helped a constable on his request in stopping some bullock carts along with their cartmen to check as to whether rice was being smuggled out of the State in violation of orders of the government. It was held that the petitioners had not committed wrongful restraint as the constable had legal authority to stop and check the carts and was for that purpose entitled to the assistance of the petitioners, and in any case since the petitioners had acted in good faith they were entitled to the defence of mistake of fact under section 79 of the Code.
The Madras High Court has held the driver of a bus guilty of causing wrongful restraint who stopped his bus on the road in such a manner as not to allow the bus coming from behind to pass him and it was no defence to say that the passengers of the bus coming from behind and its driver could have got out and proceeded on foot or could have travelled in the bus in some other direction. But where the complainant who used to keep his car in the garage could not
bring out the same as the accused who used to keep his car in the pathway in front of the garage refused to move his car away, it was held that no wrongful restraint had been caused because this offence is against human body and not against vehicles and there was no allegation that by not moving the car the complainant’s right of movement was hampered. Where members of an unlawful assembly did not allow certain processionists to move in a particular direction in which they had a right to proceed, it was held that they were guilty of committing wrongful restraint.
Where the tenants of a housing society converted an open space within the compound into a garden and cordoned it, they could be proceeded against even if they were not natural persons for committing wrongful restraint and also under section 447 of the Code. Physical obstruction by the use of mere words may also cause wrongful restraint.
Where a tenant and his family members were unlawfully prevented by the landord and some other tenants by force from using the main gate, it was observed by the court that dismissal of the complaint on the ground that it was a matter of civil nature was utterly wrong.
In Rajinder Singh Katoch v. Chandigarh Administration, The Supreme Court held that the right of a co-sharer to share the joint family property is a civil right. Such a right, if denied by the other co-sharers for one reason or the other, must be enforced by taking recourse to the remedies available under the civil laws. Criminal proceedings cannot be taken recourse to for enforcing such a civil right.
In Keki Hosmusji Gharda v. Mehervan Rustom Irani, a company was carrying on construction of a road. The directors of the company were not present at the site and they had asked workers to stop work. The complainant had approached the police station thrice. The Supreme Court held that this does not amount to actual physical obstruction. Moreover, commission of an offence by raising a legal fiction or by creating vicarious liability in terms of the provisions of a statute must be expressly stated.