Four people died in the United States when a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. The mob violently clashed with law enforcement in a bid to help President Donald Trump overturn his defeat in the November election. In this context, let us look at how the law in India deals with rioting.
Which Indian law punishes unlawful assemblies and rioting?
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 punishes unlawful assemblies and the crime of rioting.
What is an unlawful assembly?
A gathering of five or more people can be considered an “unlawful assembly”, if their common purpose is to:
- Show/use criminal force to intimidate the Central/State Government, Parliament/State Legislature, or any public servant;
- Resist the execution of any law or legal process;
- Commit any mischief, criminal trespass, or other offence;
- Show/use criminal force to take possession of any person’s property, or to deprive them of their rights;
- Show/use criminal force to make someone do an illegal act, or to stop them from doing a legally permitted act.
Even an assembly which is not unlawful when it assembled can later become an unlawful assembly.
Punishment for unlawful assembly
Anyone who knowingly and intentionally joins or continues in an unlawful assembly, is considered a member of the unlawful assembly, and can be punished with imprisonment for up to six months and/or a fine.
If a member of an unlawful assembly is armed with a deadly weapon or anything which can be used as an offensive weapon to cause death, they can be punished with imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine.
If someone knowingly joins or continues in an unlawful assembly after it has been legally ordered to disperse, they can be punished with imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine.
What is rioting?
Whenever an unlawful assembly uses force or violence to achieve the common purpose, every member of the assembly is guilty of rioting.
Punishment for rioting
The punishment for rioting is imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine.
Anyone who is guilty of rioting with a deadly weapon or anything which can be used as an offensive weapon to cause death, can be punished with imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine.
If a public servant is trying to disperse an unlawful assembly or suppress a riot, no person is allowed to:
- Assault or obstruct the public servant; or
- Use criminal force against the public servant.
The punishment for violating this is imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine.