Chapter VIII of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) deals with offences committed against public tranquillity. Before moving on to these offences, it is important to understand the need to maintain public tranquillity.
Tranquillity is the quality of state of being tranquil and public tranquillity refers to causing disturbance to tranquillity by a group of persons. It is every person’s duty to maintain public tranquillity and any disturbance to public tranquillity is a punishable offence under Indian Law. It is also a policeman’s duty to ensure public tranquillity and to punish anyone who commits an offence against public tranquillity[i].
Under the IPC, public tranquillity offences have been classified mainly into 4 categories:
- Unlawful assembly
- Enmity amongst different classes
In addition, Chapter X of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 also deals with guidelines relating to maintenance of public tranquillity and outlines responsibilities of the police and the executive in relation to this matter.[iii]
Maintaining peace and tranquillity is a necessary factor for the development of society. If there is any form of disorder in society or any hindrance of such a nature, there would be an opportunity for the individual to grow and develop to their fullest in that society. Hence, it is a prerequisite to maintain peace and tranquillity in every society and in every nation.
Maintaining public peace and tranquillity is every citizen’s duty and causing a disturbance is a punishable offence.[iv] Offences against public tranquillity are not only committed against one single person or someone’s property, but against society as a whole. Offences against public tranquillity are generally committed by a group of people who share a common intention to disturb peace and tranquillity of the public and thereby, affecting the entire society.
Offences Against Public Tranquillity
Any assembly by 5 or more persons with any of the following common intentions would be considered as an unlawful assembly:
- Intimidating by use or show of criminal force, the Central Government or the State Government or the Parliament or the Legislature of the State or any public servant in the exercise of their power.
- Resisting the execution of law or of any legal process.
- Committing mischief or criminal trespass or other offences.
- Taking or obtaining the possession of a property or depriving any person of their right of enjoyment of way or using water or any incorporeal right under the possession or enjoyment of any person or enforcing any right or supposed right, by use or show of criminal force.
- Compelling any person to do something which they are not legally bound to do or to omit something which they are legally bound to do, by use or show of criminal force.[v]
It is not necessary for the assembly to be unlawful when it was assembled; it can become unlawful after it was assembled. In addition to this, if anyone joins any unlawful assembly, knowing it to be unlawful, would be considered as a member of such unlawful assembly and would be liable to punishment under this Chapter.[vi] The same was reiterated in the case of Moti Das v. State of Bihar[vii].
The punishment for being a member of an unlawful assembly is imprisonment up to 6 months or fine or both.[viii] Any person who joins an unlawful assembly with deadly weapons or weapons which are likely to cause death shall be liable to imprisonment up to 2 years or fine or both.[ix]
Any person who knowingly joins or continues an unlawful assembly which had been commanded to be dispersed by law would be liable to imprisonment up to 2 years or fine or both.[x] On the other hand, any person who knowingly joins or continues an assembly of 5 or more persons which is likely to cause public disturbance after such assembly has been commanded to be dispersed by law, would be liable for imprisonment of 6 months or fine or both.[xi]
In the case of Ram Bilas Singh v. State of Bihar[xii], the Court had laid down certain situations which can be unlawful assemblies even with less than 5 members:
- Evidence must be given that other than the person convicted, there are other people who are involved at a given point of time.
- Evidence to show the presence of other unidentified persons that are part of the unlawful assembly.
- The FIR must reflect such to be the case, even if there is no such charge formed at that given point of time.
According to Section 146 of the IPC[xiii], whenever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly or by a member of such unlawful assembly, every member of the unlawful assembly shall be guilty of the offence of rioting and shall be liable to a punishment of imprisonment of 2 years or with fine or with both.[xiv]
Whoever is guilty of rioting using a deadly weapon or any weapon, that is likely to cause death, will be liable for punishment of imprisonment up to 3 years or fine or both.[xv]
Whoever provokes the cause of a riot with the knowledge that such provocation is likely to cause a riot and if such riot happens, such person will be liable to imprisonment up to 1 year or fine or both and if such riot does not happen, such person will be liable to imprisonment up to 6 months or fine or both.[xvi]
Section 149[xvii] makes any member of an unlawful assembly liable for any act by any member of such assembly. However, the act done by the other member must be towards the common objectives and any commission of an individual act would not make a person liable. This principle is also known as ‘free fight’.
In the case of Gajanand v. State of Uttar Pradesh[xviii], the Court held that “free fight is referred to as when two people went on to fight with each other and it was predetermined.” It is immaterial as to whether the person has attacked or defended. In the case of Puran v. State of Rajasthan[xix], the Supreme Court held that Section 149 cannot be invoked when an injury is inflicted onto the other party by the person who was involved in the fight and hence, other members of the assembly would not be held liable under this Section.
Whoever assaults or attempts to assault or obstructs or attempts to obstruct or uses or threatens or attempts to use criminal force, on a public servant who is exercising their duty in suppressing an unlawful assembly or a riot or an affray, shall be liable to imprisonment up to 3 years or fine or both.[xx]
Whoever is hired as a member of an unlawful assembly is said to have committed an offence and shall be liable for punishment, just like any other member of such assembly.[xxi] Such person shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of 6 months and if they go armed, the imprisonment shall increase to 2 years[xxii] and whoever harbours such a person shall be liable to imprisonment up to 6 months.[xxiii]
Enmity Amongst Different Classes
Whoever promotes or attempts to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religions, languages, races, regions, castes or communities, or whoever does anything which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony among any such group, which disturbs public tranquillity, or whoever organises any movement or drill with the use of criminal force and violence against any such group which may or is likely to cause insecurity among members of such group, will be liable punishment of imprisonment up to 3 years or fine or both.[xxiv]
If any such offence, as mentioned above, is committed inside the premises of a place of worship, the perpetrator shall be imprisoned for up to 5 years and shall be liable to pay fine.[xxv]
In the case of Gopal Vinayak Godse v. Union of India[xxvi], the Bombay High Court held the following with respect to the scope of Section 153A:
- “It is not necessary that enmity or hatred actually arose between different classes, because of certain acts or objects.
- The matter which comes under the purview of Section 153A of the IPC should be considered a whole and not some stray or isolated parts or portions.
- It is necessary to consider the class for which the act or the object, meant to promote enmity is subjected to.
- Truth is no defence under Section 153A.”
Section 153AA[xxvii] was added in addition to this and it states that whoever carries arms to any procession against the imposition of Section 144A of the CrPC[xxviii], shall be imprisoned up to 6 months along with a fine of ₹2,000.
Section 153B was also added to reduce the increasing disharmony amongst communities in 1972 when there were high tensions amongst various castes, which largely affected the social harmony as well as the national integrity of the country. It categories offences into the following:
- Making or Publishing an imputation that a certain person who belongs to a particular community, cannot bear allegiance to national integrity.
- Asserting, counselling and propagating that a certain group of people belonging to a particular community shall be stripped of their right to citizenship.
- Making or publishing and asserting that the above act must involve discord and disharmony among various communities.[xxix]
Whoever does any of the above act, shall be liable to a punishment of imprisonment up to 3 years or fine or both and whoever does any of the above act inside the premises of a place of worship or during a religious ceremony, shall be liable to imprisonment of up to 5 years, along with fine.[xxx]
When 2 or more persons fight in public and disrupt public peace, they are said to have committed the offence of affray and they shall be liable for imprisonment of 1 month or fine up to ₹100 or both.
In the case of Sunil Kumar Mohamad Alias Mahakhuda v. State of Orissa[xxxi], the Court held that to constitute the offence of affray, there should be a potential disturbance to the public.
Public peace and order is the core of the governance of a country and not just any other issue of it. It comprises the vital aspects of democracy and the basis on which the foundation of this nation was built.
Chapter VIII of the IPC deals with offences relating to public tranquillity. These offences are committed against the entire society and disturb the peace and order of the entire society. Any offence against this public tranquillity, committed either by an individual or by a group of persons, would fall under the scope of a public offence. In addition, it is not necessary for the offence to have been committed; any possibility of the commission of an offence against public tranquillity is punishable under the IPC.
Offences against public tranquillity are categorised into unlawful assemblies, rioting, enmity against different classes and affray, all of which are similar to each other to some extent with minor differences.
However, some reforms are necessary to make these provisions in compliance with the development of the nation.
The Law Commission of India had previously circulated a questionnaire which covered the different aspects regarding public order. Only 12% of the people who responded to the questionnaire were satisfied with the current laws, 5% were satisfied up to some extent and the remaining 79% were dissatisfied with the existing laws for the following main reasons:
- External interference regarding public order and maintenance.
- The root cause of disturbance of public order was not addressed.
- There was no long-term solution that is being proposed.
- NGOs and civil bodies have not been adequately involved in public order.
- There is a lack of an institutional mechanism to outline the roles and responsibilities of maintaining public order.
- Officers of a low rank do not possess the power to control such crimes of a severe nature.
- Civil servants and police officers have not been adequately trained with respect to dealing with public offences.
- There is also no improvement in the laws with respect to recent technologies and development.
- There is no database of the perpetrators of public offences.
- There is a lack of a policy to eradicate or solve issues of public disorder.
The following could be possible reforms that can be introduced into the IPC with regards to offences against public tranquillity:
- Establishing a rule of law.
- Improving visible policing to deter such offences.
- Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the police system.
- Introducing a strong and autonomous crime investigation board along with a fair and just criminal justice system.
- Giving autonomy to civil bodies to exercise their rights, powers and duties.
[i] Sec. 34, Police Act, 1861. [ii] Chap. VIII, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [iii] Chap X, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. [iv] Sec. 23, Police Act, 1861. [v] Sec. 141, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [vi] Sec. 142, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [vii] Moti Das v. the State of Bihar, AIR 1954 SC 657. [viii] Sec. 143, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [ix] Sec. 144, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [x] Sec. 145, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xi] Sec. 151, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xii] Ram Bilas Singh v. the State of Bihar, AIR 1989 SC 1593. [xiii] Sec. 146, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xiv] Sec. 147, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xv] Sec. 148, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xvi] Sec. 153, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xvii] Sec. 149, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xviii] Gajanand v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1954 SC 695. [xix] Puran v. the State of Rajasthan, AIR 1976 SC 912. [xx] Sec. 152, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xxi] Sec. 150, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xxii] Sec. 158, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xxiii] Sec. 157, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xxiv] Sec. 153A (1), Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xxv] Sec. 153A (2), Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xxvi] Gopal Vinayak Godse v. Union of India, AIR 1971 Bom 56. [xxvii] Sec. 153AA, Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xxviii] Sec. 144A, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. [xxix] Sec. 153B (1), Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xxx] Sec. 153B (2), Indian Penal Code, 1860. [xxxi] Sunil Kumar Mohamad Alias Mahakhuda v. State of Orissa, 2008 I OLR 744.
Madhumitha hails from Symbiosis International University and she spends most of her time Reading, Swimming and Playing Table-Tennis. Her Interest area lies in Criminal Law. For any clarifications, feedback, and advice, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org