India being a democratic and republic state, it is necessary to maintain public peace and order so that the public tranquility could be maintained. As we all know in our country a breach of public peace is much prevalent due to the conflicting ideas of the person, public order and the laws which are made by the government found not in favor of some section of the society, the best example is CAA(Citizenship Amendment Act,2019). When this act came into force the public peace of the state was diminished as the offenses done by the group of individuals not only harming the public but also the state.
Breach of public peace is a comprehensive term which means a serious misbehavior which destroys the public peace and order of the state. It is a common law offense which is regulated by the statute in many states. Breach of public peace is not only an offense committed against the property or a person but is equally wrongful when committed against the state. Some examples are destroying public property, using abusive and obscene language in a public place and creating nuisance which harms the public peace.
Public tranquility is a group of people doing an activity that causes disturbance to the peace in the society. The offenses are group offences committed by the large number of people affecting the public tranquility. For a developing country it is very important to maintain public peace and order and it is the fundamental duty of the state to maintain the public order. According to Section 31 of The Police Act 1861 the definition of public order which instructs police to maintain order on public areas, roads and prevent the formation of unlawful assembly.
Offences related to the breach of public peace
The law making body of our country has made various laws in order to prevent public order and peace. There are various legal provisions related to the breach of public peace which are enshrined in the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 and the Indian Penal Code 1860. As per Chapter 10 of the code of criminal procedure which lays down the duties, power and function taken by the police and the government in order to maintain public peace and order. The chapter 8 of Indian Penal Code also contains the provisions related to the offenses against the public tranquility.
The offences which are against the public tranquility as specified and punishable under IPC are unlawful assembly, rioting, promoting enmity and affect and affray.
Section 141 of Indian Penal Code defines unlawful assembly as an assembly of five or more people sharing a common intention and the requirements of Section 141 are fulfilled. The assembly is classified unlawful when common object must be:-
- To show or use criminal force against the state, public servant and government.
- To prevent the execution of law or legal process.
- Causing mischief or criminal trespass against any person.
- By means of criminal force obtaining the property and to deprive enjoyment of such property which a person lawfully entitled to do.
- To use criminal force and compel the person to do what he is not legally bound to do.
Section 142 of IPC reads as being a member of unlawful assembly, if a person by a fact knows that the assembly is unlawful and intentionally joins the assembly and continues to be part of it, is said to be a member of unlawful assembly.
The assembly is unlawful only when it satisfies the following requirements:
- There must be five or more persons- The major ingredient for an assembly to be known as unlawful assembly is that it must comprise of five or more persons. If there are less than five then it would not be termed as unlawful assembly.
- Common object- The essence of an unlawful assembly is the common object of the persons forming the assembly. The object must be common to all the persons who constitute the assembly; that is they should all be aware of it. Mere presence in the assembly does not make a person liable for an unlawful assembly unless it is shown that he has done something unlawful and intentionally.
- Applying criminal force to compel any person to do an illegal act- If a person compels anyone or applies the force to compel him to do anything illegal then it is also covered under this offence.
- Criminal trespass and criminal force applied against the state, public servant and central government- The force applied against the state and public authority and the trespass to the property of the state are the main requirements for an offence to be known as unlawful assembly.
The punishment of being a member of unlawful assembly read under Section 143 of IPC which states that any member of an unlawful assembly shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of 6 months or with fine or with both.
Case law related to unlawful assembly
In Bharwad Mepa Dana v. State of Bombay the court held that the member being a part of unlawful assembly common intention of killing the victims and the killing was done in prosecution of the common object of the unlawful assembly and in furtherance of the common intention of all. In this case the court ordered that the assembly is unlawful and would be liable under Section 149 of IPC.
In Ram Dular Rai v. State of Bihar It was held that mere presence in unlawful assembly cannot render a person liable unless he was actuated by common object and the object is one of those out in Section 141 of I.P.C. Common object is different from a common intention as it does not require prior consent and prior meeting of minds before attack.
In Bhimrao v. State of Maharashtra the appellant along with some other formed an unlawful assembly with a common object of committing the murder of prabhakar gawande. With that object they went in the house some entered in the house and some were outside standing. The members which entered the house assaulted and caused grievous injuries to the deceased and due to that he died. Original common object was that only to assault the deceased but some of them cause grievous injuries too. It was held that the act of those members of the original unlawful assembly who entered the house cannot be attributed to the members who stood outside. Therefore, the appellants will be liable to be punished for sharing the original common object which was only to assault the deceased.
Rioting is a violent behavior caused by a group of people disturbing the peace and order. It is an uncontrolled behavior of a disorganized group acting violently against the people, government officials and the property. The only difference between riot and unlawful assembly is the presence of violence in a riot.
Under Section 146 and147 of IPC rioting is covered. Section 146 defines the act of rioting as it is an act of use of violence and force by an unlawful assembly in furtherance of attaining common object. Every individual of unlawful assembly shall be liable for rioting whether he was a part of violence or not. The punishment of rioting is mentioned under Section 147.
The following ingredients for the offence of rioting are:
- There must be five or more people forming an unlawful assembly- For rioting it is necessary that there shall be five or more persons indulging in that offence. Rioting is as parallel to unlawful assembly with the only difference is that there must force or violence is involved.
- Common object- The essence of a rioting is the common object of the persons. The object must be common to all the persons who constitute the assembly; that is they should all be aware of it. Mere presence in the assembly does not make a person liable for a rioting unless it is shown that he has done something unlawful and intentionally.
- The force or violence must be used by an unlawful assembly- Force or violence is an important ingredient for an offence to be known as rioting. Without any violence an unlawful assembly will not be liable for rioting.
The punishment of rioting is read under Section 147 of IPC which states that any member whoever is guilty of rioting shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of 2 years or with fine or with both. Also, as per Section 148 any person who is guilty of rioting and was armed with a weapon which is used as an object to cause violence in the riot and by using of that deadly weapon there is assumption that it would likely to cause death then the punishment can extend up to a term of 3 years or fine or both.
Case law related to rioting
In Ram Avtar Rai and Ors v. State Of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court upheld conviction of appellants and charged them under Sections 302, 323 I.P.C. both read with Section 149 I.P.C. and under Section 147 I.P.C. In this case what happened is there were five brothers who brutally injured the deceased with lathis and the injuries were like a nature to cause death of a party. In this they have a common intention to kill the deceased. These charges were framed and the high court convicted them for unlawful assembly and also the riot because violence was used and after that the Supreme Court upheld this conviction.
In Deodhari Koeri v. Emperor there was some family dispute between A and B who were relatives. On 18th March, 1936 A and B came to blows over the use of a cattle trough and pegs outside the house of A. The evidence showed that A shouted out; Help, I am being killed and on his cry the other petitioners assembled with lathis. It was held that merely coming to the spot with the lathis or other weapons can hardly be considered sufficient to make them guilty of rioting.
Affray is a term which means fight between two or more persons at a public place so that it affects public peace and order. For an offense amount to affray there must be an element of fighting present at a public place. In this common intention is not important only the person involved shall be liable. It is an assembly of two or more people meeting at a public place fighting, resulting in a public peace disturbance. This offence also creates a threat to the public as it automatically affects the public.
According to Section 159 and 160 of IPC the offence of affray is defined. Section 159 defines affray as when two or more persons fight at a public place in order to affect public peace and harming public order whereas Section 160 defines the punishment for affray.
The main ingredients for an offence to be known as affray are as follows:
- There must be an involvement of two or more persons– In order to be known as affray there must be two or more persons fighting.
- Fighting at a public place- The public location is must for an offence to be committed as an affray. If you are just fighting at a place like in a house then it does not amount to affray as public peace is not harmed while fighting.
Section 160 of IPC defines the punishment of affray i.e. whoever commits an offence shall be imprisoned for a term of extending to one month or fine which may extend up to Rs 100 or both.
Case law related to affray
In Jagannath Shah v. State Of Bihar, two brothers were quarrelling and abusing each other on a public road in a town and a large crowd gathered and the traffic was jammed but no actual fight took place. It was held by the court that no affray was committed in absence of actual fight.
In Babu Ram v. Emperor  the two persons attacked and overpowered a third one who merely defended himself. It was held that they were guilty of this offence as they were fighting in a public place notwithstanding the fact that the third person only defended himself in the exercise of private defense.
In State v. Meer Singh The three men were fighting at the public locality which results in the disturbance of the public peace. It was the admitted case of both the accused persons that they were fighting in a Gali and definitely in such a fight, it was natural that disturbs the public peace and for doing that they have to suffer hence, the court held them for the conviction under the offence of affray.
Difference between unlawful assembly, rioting and affray
The offence of unlawful assembly, rioting and affray are in the following ways:-
- The fundamental differences between the unlawful assembly, rioting and affray are that affray cannot be commenced in a private place whereas unlawful assembly and riot can be committed in a private place.
- ● To commit an offence of affray there shall be a presence of two or more persons required while for a riot and unlawful assembly it is mandatory to have five or more than five people to commence that offence.
In order to be called a developed country the first and foremost thing one should do is maintain the peace in the country and respect the order granted by the government so that there should be smooth working in a state without any disruption and destruction. Maintaining peace is a good indication for a country in order to achieve development. In this article it is discussed what are the offences which breach the public peace not only against the public but also to the property and the state.
According to the statute breach of public peace is covered as offences against public tranquility hence whosoever disturbs the public peace and its environment would be punishable under this because it is against the nature of development of a country.
 1960 AIR 289
 2004 Cri. L.J. 635 (S.C.)
 AIR 1985 SC 880
 A.I.R 1937 Pat. 34
 (1937) O.W.N. 37
 AIR 1937 All 754
 21 June, 2012