Section 137 IPC: Deserter Concealed on Board Merchant Vessel through Negligence of Master

In the vast realm of Indian legal provisions, Section 137 IPC holds a unique place. It pertains to the act of concealing a deserter on board a merchant vessel through the negligence of the master. This provision plays a crucial role in maintaining the discipline and order on merchant vessels, and it’s essential to understand its significance.

section 137 ipc

The Significance of this Legal Provision

Section 137 IPC is designed to address a specific scenario – when a deserter from any branch of the armed forces is concealed on a merchant vessel due to the negligence of the vessel’s master. This is a violation with far-reaching consequences, considering the security implications involved.

Legal Background and Context

To comprehend the full impact of Section 137 IPC, one must delve into its legal background and context. This provision is embedded within the broader framework of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and it’s intricately linked with the nation’s maritime security and armed forces.

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Definition of a Deserter in this Context

A deserter, in the context of Section 137 IPC, is someone who has abandoned their military duties or responsibilities. They might have fled their post or unit, creating a significant breach in discipline. When such individuals find refuge on a merchant vessel, it becomes a matter of serious concern.

The Act of Concealing a Deserter on a Merchant Vessel

Concealing a deserter on a merchant vessel is not a mere act of compassion but a legal offense. The master of the vessel, who is responsible for its crew and cargo, is expected to ensure that no deserter from the armed forces is harbored onboard. Any failure in this regard is viewed as negligence on the master’s part.

The Role of the Master in Negligence

The master of a merchant vessel plays a pivotal role in upholding Section 137 IPC. It’s their responsibility to thoroughly check and verify the identity of every individual boarding the vessel. Negligence occurs when they fail to perform this duty adequately, leading to the concealment of a deserter.

Legal Consequences of Negligence by the Master

Negligence by the master of a merchant vessel can have severe legal implications. It not only endangers national security but also puts the master in a position of legal liability. Understanding the consequences of negligence is crucial to prevent such incidents.

Punishments and Liabilities

The punishments for concealing a deserter on board a merchant vessel through the negligence of the master can range from fines to imprisonment. Furthermore, the master can also face civil liabilities in certain cases. These legal consequences underscore the gravity of this offense.

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Recent Case Examples

To illustrate the real-world impact of Section 137 IPC, we can examine recent case examples where negligence by the master resulted in the concealment of deserters. These cases shed light on the need for vigilance and strict compliance with this provision.

How to Avoid Negligence as a Master

Preventing negligence as a master is of utmost importance. It not only safeguards the master from legal troubles but also upholds the law. There are various measures and practices that masters can adopt to ensure compliance with Section 137 IPC.

Legal Obligations for the Master

Understanding the legal obligations is crucial. Masters are required to cooperate with the authorities to prevent the concealment of deserters. Comprehending their legal responsibilities is a vital step toward compliance.

Compliance and Consequences

Compliance with Section 137 IPC is not just a matter of legal obligation but a duty towards national security. This provision serves to maintain the integrity of the armed forces and merchant vessels. Failure to comply has significant consequences, both legally and ethically.


In conclusion, Section 137 IPC is a critical legal provision aimed at maintaining the discipline and security of merchant vessels. The act of concealing a deserter on board a vessel through the negligence of the master is a grave offense with legal ramifications. Masters must be vigilant and proactive in ensuring compliance with this provision.


Yes, a master can still be held liable for negligence, even if a deserter is concealed without their knowledge. The law places the responsibility on the master to prevent such occurrences, and ignorance is not a valid defense.

Section 137 IPC is generally applicable without exceptions. However, specific circumstances may be considered during legal proceedings. It’s advisable to consult legal experts in case of unique situations.

Section 137 IPC contributes to national security by ensuring that deserters from the armed forces do not find refuge on merchant vessels. This prevents unauthorized individuals from gaining access to sensitive maritime areas and protects the integrity of the armed forces.

If a master suspects a deserter on their vessel, they should immediately report the matter to the relevant authorities. Cooperation with law enforcement and military officials is essential to resolve the situation in accordance with the law.