Offences against Public Tranquillity
Authored By- Pratibha Kumari
Keywords- Public Tranquillity, Public peace, Unlawful Assembly, Riots, Affray
Maintenance of public peace and order is one of the most important functions of good governance and the identity of a welfare state. If the people do not follow law and order and break public peace or disturb the public harmony, then it will definitely become a barrier in the foundation base of society. Maintenance of public peace is necessary for the betterment of overall society and hence is an obligation upon the state to do so. To perform its duty of maintaining peace and order, the legislature inserted certain provisions under IPC (under Chapter VIII of IPC, from sec. 141- 160) which describes certain acts as offences against public tranquillity and prescribed relevant punishment for the offenders. These offences are not performed by a single person, instead, a group of people having a common intention.
Chapter VIII of IPC, 1860 contains provisions of Offences against Public Tranquillity. Chapter VIII contains a total of 20 sections from 141 to 160. These offences result in the breach of public peace and harmony. These acts violate the maintenance of public order and are basically performed in a group. Offenses prescribed under Chapter- VIII are offences against the whole society. These are mentioned as follows-
Unlawful Assembly (Sec. 141)
Sec. 141 of IPC defines the meaning of Unlawful Assembly as gathering of 5 or above 5 people for the commission of any of the 5 following unlawful acts i.e.-
1. To intimidate by criminal force, to stop the Central or State Government or Union or State Legislature or any public servant from doing their lawful service.
2. To withstand the execution of any law or legal procedure.
3. To commit any Mischief or Criminal Trespass or any other offence.
4. By using or showing criminal force to acquire the possession of any property or divest any person form the enjoyment of the right of way, water, or other incorporeal rights of which he had the title of possession on that or any supposed right.
5. By showing or using criminal force, compelling the person not to do, what law binds him to do and to do such things which law forbids him to do.
Even an assembly which was peaceful at the time of its constitution can afterward become unlawful.
Sec. 142 prescribes that person having knowledge that any assembly is unlawful, besides that knowledge intentionally joins or continues in the unlawful assembly shall be considered as the member of unlawful assembly and he shall be punished with imprisonment of maximum up to 6 months/ with fine/ both (Sec. 143).
Sec. 144 contains the provision prescribing the punishment to those members of unlawful assembly carrying deadly weapons, which are likely to cause the death of any person, with the enhanced imprisonment of maximum up to 2 years/ fine/ both. Sec. 145 says that any person who joins or continues in the unlawful assembly which has been ordered to disperse shall be punished with imprisonment of any description not exceeding 2 years/ fine/ both. Sec. 150 says that any person who hires/ engages/ connives at the hiring of anyone to join the unlawful assembly shall be deemed to be a member of unlawful assembly and will be punished as a member and if such hired person committed an unlawful act then the former will be liable as if he had committed such act. Sec. 158 punishes such a person who engages himself or attempts to do so or assist in doing any of the offences mentioned under sec. 141 with imprisonment extending up to 6 months/ fine/ both.
Rioting (Sec. 146- 148)
Sec. 146 defines rioting as when an unlawful act is done by a group of people (not less than 5 members), in order of their common object, is termed as rioting. This very common intention and object makes each member of the group liable for riots. Generally, rioting took place as aggression against any legal judgment, Legislation passed by Parliament, conflicts, etc. Punishment for offenders of rioting is imprisonment up to 2 years/ fine/ both (Sec. 147). In case, if rioting is done by a person carrying deadly weapons, he is imprisoned for any term period not exceeding 3 years/ fine/ both.
Common Object (Sec. 149)
Here, every member of the unlawful assembly (who were members at the time of the commission of the offense) will be jointly liable for the crime committed, even if the crime is committed by anyone member having common objects or in other words if other members of the group know that the particular offense would likely be committed.
Anybody who causes assault or threatens to cause assault, or obstructs him in exercising his duty while suppressing riots or affray, etc. shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years/ fine/ both.
Whoever flagrantly by doing any illegal act, induces or prompts another person with the intention or knowledge that such prompting will result in rioting, if the offence is committed, then such person would be imprisoned with a sentence up to 1 year/ fine/ both. In case, if offence is not committed, then imprisoned till a maximum of 6 months/ fine/ both.
Sec. 153A- 153B
Sec. 153A punishes the person who incites hatred and animosity between different religions, race, caste, or community, which results in such acts which cause disturbance to public tranquillity. It also includes any kind of movement or activity using force or violence against any particular group or community punishes with imprisonment up to 3 years of imprisonment/ fine/ both. The punishment is enhanced in case of offence committed in a place of worship up to 5 years of imprisonment. Sec. 153 B talks about communal and caste differences and publication of such amputations which particular community members cannot bear and which would result in affecting the national integration of the country.
Sec. 154 punishes such a person who is the owner or occupier of land on which unlawful assembly or rioting had taken place if such owner or any of his agents has knowledge about offence but did not inform the station officer of nearby police-station is liable to pay a fine up to Rs.1000. Sec. 155 punishes even that person for whose benefit the riot had been committed shall also be liable to pay a fine. Sec. 156 prescribes punishment for the agents of or occupier himself of the land in regard to which riot had taken place and he had not taken any lawful means within his power to stop or prevent such riot shall be punishable with fine. Sec. 157 provides that whoever harbours in any premises or house any person knowing that the latter was engaged in an unlawful assembly shall be penalized with imprisonment not exceeding 6 months imprisonment/ fine/ both.
Affray (sec. 159- 160)
If two or more people fight in a public place and because of that fight, breach of public peace and order has been caused, then it is said to have committed an affray. Sec. 160 prescribes punishment to a person committing affray with imprisonment maximum up to 1 month/ fine not exceeding Rs. 100/ both.
Amar Singh vs. the State of Punjab, in this case, prior 7 persons was convicted of committing an offense under sec. 148 and 149 of IPC. But later on, the session court acquitted 2, and High Court acquitted 1 person. SC held that out of 7 when 3 were acquitted, the left person cannot be convicted under sec. 148 and 149 of IPC.
In the case of Ram Bilas Singh vs. the State of Bihar, the SC held that although the number of persons constituting the unlawful assembly reduced to less than 5, then even he can be convicted but there must be some evidence or FIR registered showing the unidentified persons involved in the offence.
In the case of, C. Subbarayudh vs. State of Andhra Pradesh the SC held that in offence of Affray, there must be retaliation from both sides. The heat of the moment from both the sides must have disturbed the public peace and order. It should not be such that one side should be aggressive and the other side should be passive.
Thus, it is hereby concluded that the maintenance of public peace and order is not only the obligation of government but also one of the main principles of a democratic nation. To keep this true spirit of democracy, the legislature had formulated certain provisions and compiled it under Chapter VIII covering a total of 20 sections (sec. 141- 160) under IPC, 1860 which punishes those who cause offence against public tranquillity. Example- forming Unlawful Assembly, Rioting, Affray, Causing enmity among particular communities, Harming national integration, etc. These offences are not against any individual but against the whole society. Maintaining public peace, harmony and order is the need for a well-civilized society and good governance. But, today, we hear everyday these types of acts in the newspaper headlines. The reason behind this is the lack of strict punishment which is required to be reformed.
 AIR 1987 SC 826  (1964) 1 SCR 775  (1996) Cri LJ 1472 (AP)