This article has been written by Nivrati Gupta, a student at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad. This article covers the offences against public tranquillity namely unlawful assembly, rioting and affray under Indian Penal Code. 


“There can be no peace without justice, no justice without law and no meaningful law without a Court to decide what is just and lawful under any given circumstance,” said Benjamin Ferencz, Chief Prosecutor for the US Army at Einsatzgruppen Trial. 

Peace and democracy go hand in hand, where one lacks the other is jeopardized. To maintain peace and order in society is one of the foremost concerns of any democratic state. Breach of Public Peace is not only qualified as a wrong done against person or property but is also a wrong against the state. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the peace and morality of the state are maintained and strict rules and regulations are brought to maintain the tranquillity of the state.

Download Now

A state of peace and order encourages investment growth, creates more opportunities for jobs and draws more visitors. Economic development typically refers to the continuous, coordinated efforts of policymakers and communities supporting a particular area’s quality of living and economic health. Peace leads to lack of hostility. It refers to an atmosphere governed by strong interpersonal and international relations, acceptance of equality, and justice.

The main aim of this is to understand the offences that are against the public tranquillity. From this research, we will get a more in-depth idea about the public tranquillity and the offences that are against the public tranquillity.  

Breach of Public peace

For the proper development of any society, maintaining peace is a must. India being a developing democratic republic identifies the need for maintaining public order and tranquillity. Public order is the absence of criminal activity or political violence. 

Public tranquillity means a group of persons doing an activity which causes disturbance in the activity of an individual or group. Public order which is defined under Section 31 of the Indian Police Act 1861 instructs police to maintain order on roads, public areas, prevent the formation of unlawful assemblies and Section 34 granting the right to the police to punish the person and to be made liable for not following them. These two sections address the need and maintenance of “public tranquillity”. 

Public Nuisance

A public nuisance created in a public setting or on public land, or affecting the community’s morals, safety, or health, is considered to be a state offence. Public nuisances include activities such as obstructing a public road, polluting air and water, operating a prostitution house and keeping explosives. Section 278 of Indian Penal Code defines any person who does an act or an illegal omission that causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public or who live or occupy the property in the vicinity, or that necessarily causes injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have the potential to use any public right. Punishment for public nuisance is defined in Section 290 of IPC, in accordance to which person committing public nuisance shall be liable of a fine of Two Hundred Rupees, further if the person continues to create havoc and nuisance even after the lawful public authority issues an injunction, in such a case that person will be liable for imprisonment which may extend to 6 months or fine or both under Section 291 of IPC 

Procedure for removal of Public Nuisance under CrPC

Section 133 of CrPC provides for a rough and ready procedure to be used in urgent cases for removal of public nuisances. In accordance to this section, whenever a District Magistrate or a Sub-Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate, specially empowered in this behalf by the State Government, on receiving the report of a police officer or other information and on taking such evidence as he thinks fit:

  1. any unlawful obstruction or a nuisance should be removed from any public place or from any place used by the public; or
  2. conduct of any trade or occupation, or the keeping of any goods, is injurious to the health or physical comfort of the community, such trade or occupation should be prohibited or regulated or should be removed or the keeping be regulated;
  3. construction of any building, disposal of any substance which is likely to occasion conflict or explosion, should be prevented or stopped;
  4. that any building, tent or structure, in such a condition that it is likely to fall and thereby cause injury to persons living or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing by and therefore repair or support of such building, tent or structure, or the removal of support of such tree, is necessary;
  5. that any tank, well adjacent to any such way or public place should be fenced in such manner as to prevent danger arising to the public;
  6. any dangerous animal should be, confined or otherwise disposed of.

such Magistrate may make an order requiring the person causing such obstruction or nuisance/ carrying on such trade or occupation or keeping any such goods owning, possessing or controlling such building, tent, structure, well or excavation, or owning or possessing such animal or tree, within a time to be fixed in the order as: 

  1. remove such obstruction or nuisance;
  2. desist from carrying on, or to remove or regulate in such manner as may be directed, such trade or occupation, or to remove such goods, or to regulate the keeping thereof in such manner as may be directed;
  3. to prevent or stop the construction of such building, remove, repair or support such building, tent or structure, or to remove or support;
  4. fence such tank, well or excavation;
  5. destroy, confine or dispose of such dangerous animal in the manner provided by law.
                               Click Above

Offences relating to the breach of public peace under IPC

The lawmakers of our country have taken important measures to preserve the public order and peace among the citizens of the community. The legal provisions relating to public order and tranquillity were primarily enshrined in the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973. Nevertheless, various laws were also subsequently formulated in respect of this matter.

Legal provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure for the protection of public order and the protection of peace is the primary objective of the government. Providing a healthy environment for people helps the country grow and achieve new heights.

Breach of public peace and tranquillity are discussed in Chapter 10 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which is Maintenance of Public Order and Tranquillity, which lays down the essential duties steps and measures to be taken by the police and government to ensure public peace.

Breach of public peace in Chapter VIII of The Indian Penal Code 1860, deals with the various offences under Public Tranquillity. Under this chapter, the offences discussed are known by the name “group offences” and are further categorized as unlawful assembly, rioting and affray.  

Unlawful assembly

Every right comes with a restriction and responsibility. Article 19(1)(b) of the Constitution of India provides, the right to assemble peacefully without arms Section 141 of the Indian Penal Code forbids unlawful assembly. An unlawful assembly is defined as coming together of five or more people sharing a common object of committing an unlawful act. A common object is defined in Section 149 of IPC

In Ram Bilas Singh v. the State of Bihar, it was held that: 

“it is competent to a court to come to the conclusion that there was an unlawful assembly of five or more persons, even if less than that number have been convicted by it if: 

(i) the charge states that apart from the persons named, several other unidentified persons were also members of the unlawful assembly whose common object was to commit an unlawful act

(ii) or that the first information report and evidence shows such to be the case even though the charge does not state so.

(iii) or that though the charge and prosecution witnesses named only the acquitted and the convicted accused persons there is other evidence which discloses the existence of named or other persons”

Common object

The members of the unlawful assembly must have a common purpose and aim, and do any of the actions as mentioned in IPC Section 141. When an unlawful assembly exercises the right of private defence and at that moment, when they are threatened by the opposition party, the right of private defence can not be regarded as the general-purpose but, if five or more people abduct a woman and hold her in unlawful confinement, then this assembly is an unconstitutional assembly. 

The specific item is dealt with, within IPC Section 149. Each member of an unlawful assembly is punishable according to this clause.

It was held in Bhanwar Singh & Ors vs the State Of M.P, for common object, it is not necessary to have a prior concert in the sense of a meeting of the members of the unlawful assembly, the common object may form on the spur of the moment; it is sufficient if it is accepted by all the members and shared by them all. In order for the case to fall within the first part, the offence committed must be linked to the common object immediately. 

Object means the purpose, and it will be common when the members of the unlawful assembly share the same purpose. All or a couple of members of the assembly may form a common object at any stage. However, a common object in the human mind is entertained so there can be no evidence to prove this directly.

Unlawful Assembly

In Mohan Singh v State of Punjab (AIR 1963 SC) it was held that an assembly will be satisfied as unlawful only when it is having five or more than five people with all sharing the same intention and the requirements of  Section 141 are satisfied. Here the common object must be:-  

  1. To (a) overawe by; (b) criminal force (Section 350 of IPC);  (c) Government/Parliament/State body/Public servant  any act which; 
  2. Prevent execution of any legal process or law, the legal process is the execution of any process which is in accordance with the law in force. 
  3. Cause mischief (Section 425 of IPC) or criminal trespass (Section 441 of the Indian Penal Code). 
  4. By the means of using (a) criminal force; (b) obtain property or deprive enjoyment of such property which the person is lawfully entitled to. 
  5. By forcing one to do/omit to any act which he is not legally bound to. 

Regarding the members, such part of this unlawful assembly Section 142 of IPC reads as: 

“Any person so being beware of the object and intentions of the assembly formed, intentionally continuing to be a member will be said as a member of such unlawful assembly.”  


  • An assembly of five or more persons;
  • A common object;
  • The common object must be one of the five mentioned in the section;
    • Overawing the central/state governments or  officers,
    • Resistance to the implementation of the legal process. 
    • Commission of mischief,
    • Forcible possession,
    • Illegal compulsion,
  • Such an object is common to all the members;
  • Members joined or continued to join such assembly;
  • They assembled knowingly.


Punishment of such members is defined under Section 143 of IPC which reads as any member of such assembly shall be liable for imprisonment for a term which may extend to (a) six months or with (b) fine or (c) both.

Additional sections under the Indian Penal Code which deal with unlawful assembly 

Section 144 – Joining or continuing in an unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapons. A person armed with any object or weapon which is used as a weapon and is likely to cause death, such person shall be liable for imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine or both. 

Section 145 – Joining or continuing in an unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse. Any person joining an assembly after having the knowledge that such an assembly is ordered by the law to disperse shall be punished with imprisonment of (a) a term which may extend to two years or (b) fine or (c) both.

Section 149 –  Liability for constructive knowledge of common object – Where any member or members of an unlawful assembly in prosecuting the common intent of that assembly knew intent, any person who is a member of the knew and had knowledge of the intent and is a part of that assembly at the time the offence was committed is guilty of that offence.

Chapter X of the CrPC “Maintenance of Public Order and Tranquillity” includes provisions setting out the structure of the process for the preservation of public order and peace. The chapter is composed of a total of 21 parts dealing with the procedural measures to be followed and taken in preserving public order and tranquillity. Section 129 to Section 132 deals with the laws relating to unlawful assemblies.

If any such unlawful assembly which has gathered does not get dispersed then in such case the Executive Magistrate of the highest rank has the authority to order police/ armed force in order to disperse the assembly. 

This step is necessary for the public security of the country. The magistrate may even direct, or as it may be necessary, even arrest and confine in order to disperse the assembly or have them punished according to law. It is the duty of every such officer of the forces to obey such order as he considers fit.  However while doing so, he shall use as little force and do as little injury to person and property. 


A riot is a type of civil disorder which is often characterized by disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and extreme outbreak of violence against authority, property or individuals. Although individuals may try to lead or control a riot, riots are usually disorderly, exhibiting collective behaviour, and caused by civil unrest in general. Sometimes, riots occur in response to a perceived injustice or out of dissent. 

Rioting is a violent civil disturbance of peace and order by a crowd or assembly. A major difference between unlawful assembly and riot is the presence of violence in a riot. 

Violence, which is (a) force, defined in Section 349 of IPC or (b) criminal force defined in Section 150 of IPC.

Section 146 of IPC defines Rioting as the use of force or violence by an unlawful assembly in achieving a common object thereof. In such a case, every member of the unlawful assembly is guilty of the offence whether he was a part of such violence or not. 

Bilal Ahmed Kaloo v. State of Andhra Pradesh– Mens rea is an essential ingredient for the offence that is committed under Section 153A of IPC.  Criminal intent or evil intention. In general, the definition of a criminal offence involves not only an act or omission and its consequences but also the accompanying mental state of the doer. All criminal systems require an element of criminal intent for most crimes.

Rioting is in itself a means to disrupt the public peace, and is immaterial whether the rioters were violent or not, use of criminal force is not essential, the same was held in the case of  Lakshmi Ammal v. Samiappa (AIR 1968 Mad 310) the court said that violence is not necessary to be inflicted against a person it can be against property or any object.  

Is sudden quarrel a riot? 

In Ananta Kathod Pawar v. The State of Maharashtra, (1997) 11 SCC 564, it was held by the Court that if for any lawful reason a number of persons assembled unexpectedly quarrelled without any prior intention or arrangement, they would not be liable for riot. In such a case, the guilty would be liable for their particular actions and would not be vicariously responsible.


  • The accused persons are five or more in number.
  • The assembly shares a common object which is illegal in nature.
  • In the case of Maiku v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1989 SC 67, a Sub-Police Inspector and a few constables detained an individual while the Sub-Inspector investigated a case and the arrested person voluntarily led them to the place where the dead body was found, the detained person attempted to flee the police. Finally, he was overpowered and beaten which resulted in his death. It was held – the purpose of the police was holding an investigation. Hence their common object being lawful. If the common object of an assembly is legal, it is not rioting even if force is used by any member of that assembly. The accused must be armed by a common or harmful object.
  • The force used by the assembly or any member thereof in the prosecution of the common object.


Further, the punishment in Section 147 which states that whoever is guilty of rioting shall be punished for either (a) term which may extend to two years or (b) fine or (c) both. 

Also, any person who is guilty of rioting and was armed with a weapon or anything which is used as an object to cause violence in the riot and use of such is likely to cause death. In such a case, under Section 148, the punishment (a) extends to a term of three years or (b) fine (c) both. 


If two or more people fight in public, thus disrupting people’s peace or endangering the one around them then they are said to have committed Affray. The act should create disturbance and disorder in society. Action creating threat in society is affray. Common intention is not important in an affray and a person who has actually committed a crime is liable.

Accordingly, the affray offence is a group or joint act in which two or more parties are engaged in combat against each other, conducted in a public location, resulting in public peace disturbance. It requires a real battle between the parties to create this offence and a simple altercation does not lead to an affray. It is specified in Section 159 of the IPC and Section 160 of the IPC imposes punishment.

Indian penal code defines affray as an assembly of two or more people fighting in a public place which is interfering with the public peace. 

Sections 159 and 160 of Indian Penal Code deals with offences against affray. 

Section 159 defines affray as two or more persons, by fighting in a public place, disturbing the public peace, they are said to “commit an affray”.


An offence of affray can be postulated if it possessed the following:

  • Involvement in fighting by two or more persons.
  • Such an act took place in a public place.
  • Act resulted in the disturbance of the public peace and atmosphere. 


Punishment for committing affray is defined under Section 160, that is, imprisonment of (a) term extending to one month or (b) fine which may extend up to Rs100 or (c) both. People involved in affray may also be convicted for unlawful assembly or riot based on the potential of the act done and threat created in the surrounding.


Public peace and maintaining order is not just another issue in the ruling of any nation, it is one of the fundamentals and core principles of governing a county. Be it the communist china, the British Empire or democratic India. Maintaining peace amongst the citizens and between states is the key to good and successful governance.  For the development and upliftment of a nation and society, there must be peace in society.

In this article offences which fall under disruption of public peace and tranquillity were discussed. These offences are group offences which are generally committed by the large number of persons resulting in disturbance of public tranquillity. It is not always necessary that the actual offence was committed but even the possibility of a threat of causing public disorder shall be punishable. Public tranquillity is an offence that is not only against an individual person and properties but also against the state. Tranquillity is the quiet consistency or condition.


  1. A study on offences against public tranquillity- International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics
  2. Chapter VIII – Of Offences Against the Public Tranquillity- Devgan 
  3. Offence against Public Tranquility: Unlawful Assembly, Rioting, Affray- 
  4. Offences against Public Tranquility, PPT by Vaibhav Goel – 
  5. Indian Penal code

    LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

    Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here