India is a land of rights, a land of freedoms; the country with the lengthiest and the bulkiest constitution. Fundamental rights here are considered as a basic structure of constitution and essence of freedom. Constitution of India gives rights to its citizen for peaceful assembly, under article 19 freedom of assembly is guaranteed with also the freedom to form associations and organisation but sovereignty and integrity of the nation is also an important feature of the Constitution so rights for peaceful assemblies are guaranteed but that assemblies cannot be for unlawful reasons or objectives. Reasonable restriction to every right is must for a peaceful and balanced nation.
When five or more people assemble in a public place for an unlawful act which is prohibited by the government is regarded to as unlawful assembly, objectives of unlawful assembly are to commit crime or obstruction of justice. In Unlawful assembly, the most essential part is the common intention. Unlawful assembly and its objectives are defined in Section 141 of Indian Penal Code.
Section 141 IPC: – “An assembly of five or more persons is designated an unlawful assembly, if the common object of the persons composing that assembly is –
- To overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force, 1[the Central or any State Government or Parliament or the Legis¬lature of any State], or any public servant in the exercise of the lawful power of such public servant; or
- To resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process; or
- To commit any mischief or criminal trespass, or other offence; or
- By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to any person, to take or obtain possession of any property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of a right of way, or of the use of water or other incorporeal right of which he is in possession or enjoyment, or to enforce any right or supposed right; or
- By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to compel any person to do what he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do.”
Stated above is the section of 141 of IPC, the objectives for unlawful assembly come under above-mentioned points only. If the aims of the assembly are different, it would not amount to unlawful assembly. Any such charge can be legally challenged.
Individuals who commit a crime in the unlawful assembly will be treated as a crime of all of the assembly each and every individual of the assembly would be held liable.
Individuals who are charged with unlawful assembly are generally tried as a group. But accused should always focus on getting his case separated then others so that he should not be booked for deeds of another. The first course of action should be pursuing court for a separate case. Case of Garib Singh and others vs State of Punjab (1973) here supreme court said that “In case of rioting and unlawful assemblies, where a number of men are accused, the magistrate should deal with the case of each of the accused separately or discuss the evidence against of each of the accused, especially when the evidence against each of the accused is by no means equally strong.”
Punishments in the unlawful assembly are a different subject to different situations. Accused should be clear of what crime he has committed and should not be charged for more than his crime.
As Section 143 states “Whoever is a member of an unlawful assembly, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both”
And Section 144 states “Whoev¬er, being armed with any deadly weapon, or with anything which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, is a member of an unlawful assembly, shall be punished with imprison¬ment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
It is to be made sure by the defendant that he is not charged with section 144, if he does not joins the assembly with deadly weapons and some other person does both cannot be punished under same sections. A defendant should be well aware of the fact that Supreme Court has stated in the case of Bhanwarlal and Ors. vs State Of Rajasthan (1993) that when individuals are jointly tried, the court should consider evidence against each of accused separately and give definite finding against the presence of each.
Offence of one in unlawful assembly it is considered as offence of all, all are held vicariously liable for the act as Section 149 states “If an offence is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly, or such as the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object, every person who, at the time of the committing of that offence, is a member of the same assembly, is guilty of that offence.”
Here thing of note is most people are falsely accused due to mere presence near such assembly and where such act is committed. In the case of Munivel v. State of Tamil Nadu (2006) court boldly stated that mere presence near people, who have gathered in an unlawful assembly for carrying of a common objective, cannot be incriminated for the same. Here court has to consider and judge whether the person was there out of curiosity and is a witness or had that common objective and is accused. If a person who is just present their out of curiosity and is accused can always ask the court to review the above-mentioned case.
So, in unlawful assembly accused should always be aware of this fact for what he has been charged for and what he is guilty of.