A Delhi Court has delivered the first judgment in the Delhi riots case. The Court held that the accused was innocent of criminal charges involving rioting and being part of an unlawful assembly.
Which Indian law punishes unlawful assemblies and rioting?
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 punishes unlawful assemblies and 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 assembles, 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 jail time 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 jail time 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 jail time 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 jail time 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 jail time 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.