AN ANALYSIS OF IPC PROVISIONS FOR CRIMES THAT JEOPARDIZE PUBLIC WELFARE
Author: Prashant Prasad, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from University Law College, Vinoba Bhave University, Hazaribagh
We live in a society where there are a bunch of people belonging to different communities, religions, and standards. In India, it’s been a lamented fact that there are offenses done by any person or a group of persons against other. Offenses are anti-social act that infringes on the tranquility of society. Offense in layman's language can be defined as an illegal act that breaches the law. There can be many reasons why there is an offense which include political, social, and economic or any other kind of reasons thereby leading to the offense. There are many kinds of offenses such as – Offences against the human body, Offences against property, Offences against women and children, Offences against society at large, etc.
In this article, we will solely be focusing on the “Offence against the society at large”. Offenses against society at large refer to a criminal act that harms or threatens the well-being of society collectively rather than an individual or a specific group of people. So we can say that if any offense is likely to harm the tranquility of the community as a whole then in that condition it refers to an offense against society at large. A few examples of offenses against society at large include – drug trafficking, organized crime, terrorism, etc.
Offense against society in context with the IPC[i]
Under the Indian Penal Code there are many instances where offense against society at large is being defined these provisions of the IPC make sure that the offense against the society that is now prevailing must be eradicated by the pain of punishment. In IPC offense against society is defined as an illegal act that threatens or disturbs the well-being of society at large. Some of the examples in IPC regarding the offense against society are –
Sedition (Section 124A) – this provision punishes any attempt to bring hatred or exciting disaffection toward the government. In the current scenario, there are many cases and even the opposition party or any individual act is being done which creates hatred in the mind of the general public against the government.
Unlawful Assembly (Section 144) – which punishes the assembly of five or more five people if they do have a common intention of committing any cognizable offense[ii] or their intention is to resist the implementation of law via a government.
Rioting (Section 147) – which punishes any unlawful assembly that causes violence or disturbance of public peace.
Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residency, language, etc. (Section 153A)
Disobedience of order duly promulgated by a public servant (Section188)
Waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war, against the government of India (Section 121)
These are some of the provisions of IPC which make sure that there must not be any kind of offense against the society at large but indeed there are many instances where these laws have to come into force to stop the continuance of any act which harms the public peace.
Paramountcy of Sedition Law
Sedition is defined as an act by which any person by his act develops feelings of hatred and disaffection in the general public against the government. However, incitement must cause violence among the general public. The incitement can either be in the form of verbal or written. Let us take an instance in which a person or a political leader incited the government in power by the means of his speech secondly if a person writes something on the internet which incited the general public against the government, thereby leading to violence in both cases. Therefore for the applicability of sedition law incitement can either be verbal or written.
Punishment for the offense of sedition
When any person has committed the offense of sedition then the person can be punished with 3 years of imprisonment or fine or both. However, these 3 years of imprisonment can be extended to life imprisonment with fine or without fine depending on the nature of the offense committed.
Kishore Chandra Wangkhemcha v. Union of India [iii](2021) - in this particular case two journalists posted cartoons on social media those cartoons were said to incite the general public against the government. Both journalists were accused of committing sedition. The journalists filed a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of sedition law. Therefore in this case constitutional validity of sedition law was challenged. However, in the case of KedarNath v. State of Bihar[iv] sedition law i.e. section 124A was held constitutionally valid.
Unlawful Assembly – Can it be regarded as an offense against society at large?
The question of whether Unlawful assembly can be regarded as an offense arises as our Indian Constitution under Article 19(1) (B)[v] lays down that all citizens of India shall have a right to assembly peacefully and without arms. From this particular article, we can infer that citizen of India has been given the freedom to assemble. Then what constitutes the assembly as an unlawful assembly, and how can assembly be regarded as an Unlawful Assembly? This is because the freedom which is being given under Article 19(1) (B)[vi] is subject to some restrictions in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India.
Section 141[vii] of IPC defines unlawful assembly as “Assembly of 5 or more than 5 people to commit an unlawful offense is called an unlawful assembly”. There is one important aspect of an unlawful assembly is the presence of a common intention to disturb public tranquility.
What constitutes an Unlawful Assembly?
There must be an assembly of 5 members – In the case of Dharam Pal Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh[viii] it was held that when only 5 members are charged for constituting an unlawful assembly and one or more of them are acquitted, then the remaining accused (who are less than 5) cannot be convicted as a member of unlawful assembly. Further, in the case of Ram Bilas Singh v. the State of Bihar[ix], the Supreme Court has held certain situations where the number of persons in an unlawful assembly becomes less than 5 but still is eligible for conviction.
The common intention among the member of the assembly – A common intention means a minimum of 5 members of the assembly do have the same object of committing the offense.
The common intention must be to commit any illegal object.
Further, under Section 144[x] it has been specified that whoever joins unlawful assembly with deadly weapons or dangerous arms shall be punished with imprisonment of 2 years or a fine or both. Under this section, a person who is not carrying any weapon but is a part of an unlawful assembly will still be liable for this and will be punished for the same.
Rioting – an offense against public tranquility and what makes it different from unlawful assembly
Rioting in layman's language can be defined as – when an offense is committed by a group of people or a single member of a group than in those circumstances it is considered as rioting. For “Rioting” the presence of at least 5 members are necessary. In rioting, if a person belonging to a particular group has not committed any offense not he was having the intention to commit any offense in that situation also that person will be held guilty for the offense of Rioting. Further section 146 along with section 147 under IPC deals with rioting. One of the most important ingredients of rioting is the “common intention” this common intention held the person guilty even though they have not committed any offense. Mere having a bit of intention and being a part of the group that has committed the offense would amount to the charge of rioting. The person having a group who has committed the rioting may be punished under section 148 of IPC and can be imprisoned for 3 years or fined or both.
The most important question that comes to us is what is the major difference between Unlawful assembly and Rioting, the reason why one needs to understand the difference between both is that when it is being read it looks almost the same but there is a thin line difference between both. Rioting is the combination of Unlawful Assembly and violence; therefore we can say that when an unlawful assembly leads to violence it amounts to rioting. In unlawful assembly, there is no use of force but in rioting, there is a use of force.
In the 2020 Delhi riots[xi] - the Supreme Court held that we don’t believe in unnecessarily keeping people behind the bars. This was regarding the plea filed by the Delhi police against the bail granted to the three student activists in the case of the 2020 North East Delhi riots.
Promotion of enmity between different groups – Offence against society
Article 19(1) (a)[xii] of Indian Constitution lays down that all citizens of India shall have freedom of speech but at the same time this right is not absolute and is restricted under article 19(2). Hence, the promotion of enmity between different groups by taking the protection of Article 19 (1) (a)[xiii] will be no defense at all thereby criminalizing the act of promotion of enmity between different groups. The IPC has several sections that make the promotion of enmity between different groups a criminal offense. These sections are section 153A, Section 153B, Section 295A, and Section 505.
Section 153A – deals with the offense of promoting disharmony, enmity, or the feeling of hatred between different groups on the ground of religion, race, place of birth, language, etc.
Section 153B – safeguards the interest of “class person” and “national integrity” by providing punishment.
Section 295A – allows the punishing of any deliberate and malicious activities that are intended to insult the religion and religious beliefs.
Section 505 – checks and punish the spreading of false and mischievous news intending to upset public tranquility.
Other Provisions relating to offense against society at large
There are many other section and provisions present under IPC which safeguards the general public from an offense against society at large. Such as –
Disobedience of order of the public servant under section 188 of IPC.
Wagering or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India under section 121 of IPC.
From the above discussion of the various fact and provisions, we can say that offense against society at large is a taboo that is prevailing. The provision under the Indian Penal Code makes sure that there must not be any kind of offense by an individual or a group against society and hence utilizing these provisions, it can be said that there are certain laws that safeguard society from such kinds of offenses.
We all are well acquainted with the fact that India is a democratic country and hence in a democracy there is a need for the freedom of speech and expression, but at the same time this defense can’t be taken every time, especially on the matter we have discussed ranging from sedition to the rioting. Public order is one such area where our system should work this is not only a part of our society but is crucial that it should be developed at the same time. Ina nutshell, we can conclude from the in-depth discussion relating to the offense against society at large that the people who do commit these offense thinks that they are protesting and by way of that only leads to violence in some conditions. The awareness regarding these facts must be given to the people so that our democratic country should become a real democratic free from any offense regarding the society at large.
[i]Indian Penal Code, 1860, Act no. 45 of 1860 [ii] THE CODE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, 1973, Sec. 154, Act no. 2 OF 1974 [iii] Kishore Chandra Wangkhemcha v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Criminal) No.106/2021 [iv]KedarNath v. State of Bihar, 1962 SCR Supl. (2) 769 [v]INDIA CONST. art 19(1)(B) [vi]Ibid [vii]Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 141, Act no. 45 of 1860 [viii]Dharam Pal Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1976 SCR (1) 587 [ix] Ram Bilas Singh v. the State of Bihar, AIR 1989 SC 1593 [x]Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 141, Act no. 45 of 1860 [xi]2020 Delhi riots, The Economic Times, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/2020-delhi-riots-we-dont-believe-in-unnecessarily-keeping-people-behind-bars-says-sc/articleshow/97059423.cms, Apr., 2023 [xii]INDIA CONST. art 19(1)(a) [xiii]Ibid