Legal Provisions Regarding “Offences against the Public Tranquility” in India – Section 141 of IPC

Unlawful Assembly:

Scope:

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Section 141 defines “Unlawful Assembly”. Sec. 142 explains the provisions about being member of unlawful assembly. Sec. 143 prescribes punishment. Sec. 144 states about joining unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapons. Sec. 145 states about joining or continuing in unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse.

Definition:

Sec. 141 defines “Unlawful Assembly”.

Sec. 141. Unlawful assembly:

An assembly of five or more persons is designated an “unlawful assembly”, if the

First:

To overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force, the Central or any State Government or Parliament or the legislature of any State, or any public servant in the exercise of the lawful power of such public servant; or

Second:

To resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process; or

Third:

To commit any mischief or criminal trespass, or other offences; or

Fourth:

By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to any person, to take or obtain possession of any property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of a right of way, or of the use of water or other incorporeal right of which he is in possession or enjoyment, or to enforce any right or supposed right; or

Fifth:

By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to compel any person to do what he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do.

An assembly, which was not unlawful when it assembled, may subsequently become an unlawful

Important Points:

A. Ingredients of Section 141:

1. There must be an assembly of five or more persons.

2. The common object of such assembly must be unlawful.

3. The object must be one of the FIVE objects specified in the Section 141.

4. The objects of unlawful assembly are,—

(i) To overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force against the Central or State Governments or any public servant etc.

(ii) To resist the execution of any law or of any legal process;

(iii) To commit any mischief or criminal trespass or other offence;

(iv) By using criminal force or showing criminal force to any person to take any person or property or deprive enjoyment of a right of way of any person or the use of water or other incorporeal right, etc.;

(v) By using or showing criminal force to compel any person to do an illegal act.

5. An assembly which was not unlawful, when it assembled may afterwards becomes an unlawful assembly.

B. Mere Presence:

Mere presence of a person at the place, where the members of an unlawful assembly have gathered, does not incriminate him. The members of an unlawful assembly must possess the common object of doing any one of the objects mentioned in Sec. 141. An assembly of less than 5 persons is not an unlawful assembly.

C. Number of Persons:

An unlawful assembly shall be consisting five or more persons. If the persons below than five, i.e., are 4 or 3 or 2, it cannot be called as unlawful assembly.

D. Overt act:

Before a Court is satisfied that an accused is a member of unlawful assembly, the prosecution must prove either from the wrong-doer’s active participation or otherwise that he shared the common intention of the unlawful assembly. It is not necessary that the accused should be guilty of any overt act.

It is sufficient if it is shown that as a participant of the unlawful assembly he was sharing the common object of the same.

E. Common Object:

There are five kinds of common objects narrated in Sec. 141. The assembly of five or more persons to be called as unlawful assembly, if they have common object of one or more objects mentioned in the Section.

Where an assembly exercises the right of private defence, when the opposite party attacks them, and then the right of private defence is not a common object within the purview of Sec. 141. Where five or more persons abduct a woman and keep her in wrongful confinement, those people’s assembly is an unlawful assembly.

F. State of U.P. vs. Sughar Singh (AIR 1978 SC 191)

Five accused were lying in a bush on either side of the lane, with armed guns. When the deceased came near, the Accused 4 and 5 exhorted him, and Accused Nos, 1, 2 and 3 shot the deceased with their guns respectively. Accused 1, 2 and 3 threatened the witnesses.

The trial Court held that all these were sufficient to come to the conclusion that these five accused had constituted an unlawful assembly and as members had common object to kill the deceased.

They had a pre-arranged plan. The trial Court convicted the accused. On appeal, the High Court quashed the conviction. The State appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction against the accused.

G. Aravindan vs. State of Kerala (1983 CrLJ 1259)

A sudden quarrel arose between the parties. Each party abused other party. There was no pre­meditated plan. All of a sudden, each party attacked others. The Court held that neither of the parties would constitute unlawful assembly.

H. Pre-concert:

A common object does not require a prior concert and a common meeting of minds before the attack. An unlawful object or common meeting of minds can develop even after the people gather. An assembly which was lawful in its beginning, however it may become unlawful subsequently.

I. Being member of Unlawful Assembly:

Section 142 lays down that whoever, being aware of facts which render any assembly an unlawful assembly, intentionally joins that assembly, or continues in it, is said to be a member of an unlawful assembly. The mere presence of a person in an assembly does not make such a person a member of unlawful assembly.

Every member of unlawful assembly must have common object. He must intentionally join or continue in such unlawful assembly. Then only he will be called as a member of unlawful assembly. Where an unlawful assembly proceeds to do the common object mentioned in Sec. 141, a person withdraws and goes away. It clearly shows that he did not like to take any further part in the incident.

Where a member of an unlawful assembly possesses the common object but could not proceed due to injury or physical weakness, and other members precede a head. As the injured member shared the common object and is deemed as a member of such unlawful assembly.

J. Punishment:

Sec. 143 imposes punishment against a person who is a member of an unlawful assembly with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine or with both.

Nature of offence:

Cognizable, bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by any Magistrate.

K. Joining unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapon:

Sec. 144 says that whoever, being armed with any deadly weapon, or with anything which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, is a member of an unlawful assembly, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Nature of offence: Cognizable, bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by any Magistrate.

M. Joining or continuing in unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse:

Sec. 145 says that whoever joins or continues in an unlawful assembly, knowing that such unlawful assembly has been commanded in the manner prescribed by law to disperse, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Nature of offence:

Cognizable, bailable, non-compoundable, and triable by any Magistrate.