The Do or Die situation means any unexpected or unforeseeable situation that may occur and due to which a person might have to do some evil act for self-preservation or for doing a greater good at the cost of a smaller good. These types of situations may arise to anyone, at any time. In these cases, the person while risking a smaller stake to prevent a greater harm must have good faith that there is a legitimate chance of saving the smaller stake from any harm at all.
In the Indian legal system these type of situations are called ‘necessity’. Necessity is a defense that is taken by the wrong doer to avoid liability. The defense of necessity is given under section 81 of the Indian Penal Code. This is one of the general defenses that is provided to the accused.
Let’s assume a situation, this situation is given in the Indian Penal Code as an illustration to section 81. The captain of a ship is in such a position that he has to choose between two options. One is to run down a vessel with 20 to 30 passengers before he can stop his ship and second is to take a turn and run down a boat with 2 passengers. In this case if the captain thinks that there is a chance of both the boats getting saved if he takes the turn and risks running down the boat with 2 passengers, then even if he takes the risk and in fact runs down the boat with 2 passengers, he will be not be liable under the law. An important thing to note here is that if the captain was not having the belief that there is any chance of saving the boat with smaller number of passengers then he would not have been able to take the defense of necessity.
However, the defense of necessity is usually not available to the accused in cases where the accused is charged for murder of a person for self-preservation. This can be explained through different real-life cases.
There are a number of cases that explains the principle. Such as the case of Regina vs. Dudley and Stephens. In this case, the accused, Thomas Dudley and Richard Stephens, were the victim of a ship wreck along with a cabin boy, named Parker. They did not have food or water. On the 20th day after staying hungry and thirsty for about 18 days they decided that they would kill Parker, who was very sick at that time and would have died soon, to feed on his flesh and survive. They ate on his flesh and drank his blood for about 4 days before being saved by a passing vessel. In this case the court decided that the defence of necessity will not be provided to these persons as they had killed a person for self-preservation which is not covered under the defence. Similarly, in the case of United States v. Holmes, the captain of a ship threw 16 male passengers out of the ship to save the ship from drowning, he was not given the defence of necessity.
Thus, as we can see that the defence of necessity will only be available in ‘do or die situations’ where there will be no intentional harm to any human being and it is only available in grave circumstances.