The section deals with the liability of a person who harbours a deserter. It states that except in the case of exception provided by the section itself, whoever, with knowledge or having reason to believe, that an officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force of the Government of India has deserted, harbours such officer, soldier, sailor or airman, shall be punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term extending up to two years, or with fine, or with both. The exception which is mentioned in the section itself is that this provision does not apply to
a case where a wife harbours her husband. When the Indian Penal Code came into existence only males could join the Army, Navy and Air Force, and consequently, this exception mentions the sole case of a wife harbouring her husband. Now the armed forces are in the process of being made open to the ladies also, in some selective areas to start with. If that happens then the exception given under this section may need to be changed a little by including within it the case of a husband harbouring his wife.
The meaning of the word ‘whoever’ should be understood in the light of section 139 of the Code.
Reason to believe
The expression ‘reason to believe’ must be understood in the sense as explained by section 26 of the Code.
The word ‘harbour’ has been defined under section 52-A of the Code, and, therefore, the meaning of the term ‘harbours’ must be understood in the light of what has been stated in that section. The person harbouring a deserter is known under the English law as an accessory after the fact.
The offence under this section is cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by metropolitan magistrate or magistrate of the first or second class.