Section 136 IPC: Harbouring Deserter

In a world governed by laws and regulations, every nation must have mechanisms in place to ensure the security and discipline of its armed forces. India, too, has provisions to maintain military discipline. Section 136 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) pertains to the ‘harbouring of a deserter.’

section 136 ipc

In this article, we will explore the various aspects of Section 136 IPC, its implications, defenses against charges, landmark cases, and the significance of this law.


The armed forces play a pivotal role in safeguarding a nation’s sovereignty. In India, military discipline is of utmost importance, and any act that undermines it can have serious consequences. Section 136 of the IPC addresses the offense of harbouring a deserter from the armed forces.

Understanding Section 136 IPC

Section 136 of the IPC reads as follows: “Whoever, not being a superior officer in the armed forces, knowingly harbours any such person being a deserter or not amenable to military law, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with a fine, or with both.”

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This section is aimed at preventing the sheltering or aiding of individuals who have deserted from the armed forces. The provisions are applicable not only to civilians but also to ex-servicemen who are no longer subject to military law.

What Constitutes ‘Harbouring’ a Deserter?

The term ‘harbouring’ refers to providing refuge or assistance to a deserter, knowing fully well that the person has absconded from the armed forces. It can encompass actions like providing shelter, employment, or any form of support that aids the deserter in evading the military authorities.

The Legal Consequences

Violation of Section 136 IPC carries legal consequences. Those found guilty of harbouring a deserter can face imprisonment for up to two years, a fine, or both. It is essential to understand that these penalties apply to both civilians and ex-servicemen.

Defenses Against Charges

Individuals accused of violating Section 136 IPC can present various defenses. They may argue that they were unaware of the individual’s deserter status or that they were acting under duress. It is crucial to consult with a legal expert to explore the most appropriate defense in any given situation.

Landmark Cases

Over the years, there have been several landmark cases related to Section 136 IPC. These cases have helped clarify the interpretation of the law and have set precedents for future legal proceedings.

Significance of Section 136 IPC

The significance of Section 136 IPC lies in maintaining discipline within the armed forces. It ensures that individuals who have taken an oath to serve and protect the nation fulfill their obligations.

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The Role of the Armed Forces

The armed forces are responsible for upholding the law, and they take Section 136 IPC seriously. They actively pursue those who desert, and individuals found guilty of desertion face serious consequences within the military justice system.

Penalties for Offenses

The penalties for desertion are significant. Deserters can face court-martial, imprisonment, and dishonorable discharge. Those who harbor deserters are also subject to legal penalties, as outlined in Section 136 IPC.

International Context

While Section 136 IPC is specific to India, the issue of desertion and its consequences is a concern in many countries with armed forces. Different nations have their own legal provisions to address this issue.

Controversies Surrounding Section 136

Like many legal provisions, Section 136 IPC is not without controversy. Some argue that it may be too harsh, while others maintain that it is necessary to maintain discipline within the armed forces. The ongoing debate underscores the complex nature of military discipline and the law.

Amendments and Recent Developments

The legal landscape is continually evolving, and amendments to Section 136 IPC are possible. Staying updated on any changes to this law is crucial for individuals, legal professionals, and those serving in the armed forces.

How to Avoid Violating Section 136 IPC

To avoid violating Section 136 IPC, it is essential to be aware of the legal consequences and refrain from providing shelter or support to deserters. Seeking legal counsel when in doubt is advisable.


Section 136 IPC plays a vital role in upholding military discipline in India. Harboring deserters is a serious offense, and the law is in place to ensure that individuals fulfill their obligations to the armed forces. Understanding the provisions and legal consequences is essential for all citizens.

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Yes, the provisions of Section 136 IPC apply to ex-servicemen as well as civilians.

Violating Section 136 IPC can result in imprisonment for up to two years, a fine, or both.

Defenses may include lack of knowledge or acting under duress. Consultation with legal experts is advisable.

Yes, Section 136 IPC is specific to India, but the issue of desertion is a concern in armed forces worldwide.