Punishment of Unlawful Assembly - Section 143

Punishment of Unlawful Assembly - Section 143

Tranquility and harmony are bedrock attributes of any civilized society and are necessary for its growth and development in economic, social, financial aspects without peace and tranquillity any society would collapse. And the Indian Penal Code (IPC) not only recognizes it but dedicates a chapter for offences against public tranquility it further becomes important as these offences are not against an individual but the society at large. 

The IPC chapter 8 deals with public offences and is categorized into 4 heads namely: Unlawful assembly, affray, rioting, enmity amongst different classes. And it's pertinent to study the offences and their punishment. Today we'll discuss one such that is, the punishment for unlawful assembly under section 143 or the kanooni dhara section 143. 

IPC Section 143: Specifies the punishment for anybody participating in an unlawful assembly. The Indian Constitution under article 19(1)(b) provides the right of peaceful assembly However the same is restricted and not absolute, one such restriction is the criminalization of unlawful assembly. 

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Section 143 merely provides punishment for unlawful assembly and therefore it becomes important to scrutinize section 141 which defines the term 'unlawful assembly. Thus for being liable under section 143 one has to fulfill the ingredients of the unlawful assembly itself under Section 141, which are as follows - 

  1. The assembly has 5 or more persons 

  2. A common object has to be shared amongst them

  3. The common object is restricted and defined under 5 heads specified in section 141 itself. They are as follows - 

  1. Show or overawe by criminal force 

  2. Execution resist of any law or legal process 

  3. Committing criminal trespass, mischief, or other offence 

  4. Taking possession of property or depriving the right of enjoyment or any incorporeal right of the property by means of criminal force 

  5. Compelling a person to do or omit to do what she /he is not legally entitled to do by way of criminal force or show of criminal force. 

Under section 141 explanation provides that an assembly may not be unlawful since its inception but may subsequently become one. 

For instance, 6 friends got together for dinner but subsequently seeing an empty house, curates a plan to steal. Then it shall be an unlawful assembly. 

What is the punishment under IPC section 143? 

Maximum imprisonment for 6 months or fine or with both. Further, the term of imprisonment and the fine will be decided at the discretion of the court. 

Ingredients of section 143 IPC:

  1. The accused is part of an assembly of at least 5. 

  2. The object of the assembly is illegal under section 141

  3. The accused shares the illegal object with at least 4 of the people in the assembly. 

  4. If all the three preceding ingredients are fulfilled then such an assembly shall be unlawful in nature. 

According to Section 142, (which deals with the membership of an unlawful assembly), the following are the essential ingredients :

  1. A person should be aware of the unlawful elements of the assembly.

  2. A person should possess an intention to join that unlawful assembly. Any sort of coercion to become a part of the assembly, will not render the person to be a part of the unlawful assembly.

  3. A person is a part of the assembly, which later turns out to be an unlawful assembly and still continues to be a part of the assembly by consent which could be either express or implied

According to IPC first schedule, the nature of section 143 IPC is as follows - 

A Bailable offence means that the accused of this offence has the right to claim bail and bail may be granted by the police under whose custody the accused/person is or the court itself. 

Cognizable offence means that the police don’t require a warrant which is often the case provided by the court, to arrest the accused of such offence. 

A non-compoundable offence means it is a less serious offence that can be compromised, that is the complainant may take back the charges anytime against the accused without the intervention of the court. 

The offence under Section 143 is triable by any Magistrate. 

The following cases will elaborate upon the ingredients and nature of section 143 for its better understanding. 

In Thursday vs Rajagopal, Kerala high court: The accused were charged with sections such as section 141, 143,147 and were held to be liable by additional session court and were appealed in the high court. 

Held - The court observed that the common object required to be proved under section 141 for constituting unlawful assembly and subsequently to be punishable under section 143. Is to be construed with reference to the facts and circumstances of each of the cases. The object to be illegal has to fall under the 5 heads specified in section 141 such as criminal trespass, mischief, obtaining possession of property by use of criminal force, etc. If the object does not fall in these heads then the object is not illegal and there is no unlawful assembly. 

Therefore to attract offence under section 143 the prosecution has to establish that firstly: there was an assembly of 5 or more people, secondly: the objective of such assembly is mentioned in section 141, thirdly:  the accused should share such object of the assembly with at least 4 of the people in the assembly, and lastly the accused either intentionally or with knowledge of the object or continued after having that knowledge with the assembly. 

The court further observed that when the court frames charges regarding section 143, it should specify the unlawful common object if the assembly categorically. 

However, the highest court acquitted the accused in the present case as the prosecution failed to establish the ingredients of section 143 and due to lack of evidence and no corroboration with the witnesses the charges against the accused were quashed. 

The Apex court in Ram Bilas Singh vs the State of Bihar, 1963 

Held - the court observed that the condition for the presence of at least 5 people is not absolute and conviction under section 143 may take place. When the following evidence are furnished - 

  1. Apart from the accused, other persons are also involved at the given point in time. 

  2. Presence of other unidentified persons in the unlawful assembly 

  3. The FIR should also reflect the same 

How can you file your case for the IPC Section 143 offence?

For the victim - If there is a violation of Section 143 the concerned victim should first report the same to the nearest police station and lodge an FIR regarding the same without any cost. Or else for more convenience lodge an E- FIR as Section 143 is a cognizable offence

Steps for filing E - FIR is as follows - 

  1. Visit the local or concerned police's official website for instance www.uttarakhandpolice.uk.gov.in.

  2. Once the website appears, click on the services option.

  3.  services option leads to a drop-down menu and you have to click the nature of your case. 

  4. Once the category is selected, a new page is opened and now you have to provide the following information - 

a. Complainant name 

b. Mother or father name of complainant 

c. Complainant Email ID 

d. Date of incident 

e. Place of incident 

f. Time of incident 

g. Complainant phone number 

h. Any other relevant description of the case. 

Lastly, before submission, you have to enter the captcha code on the form for confirmation. 

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Note - before submission all the details should be rechecked and ensure that the email id is correct as the FIR for future reference will be sent to this mail ID. 

After the FIR the police may conduct an investigation and if there is any substantive evidence the accused can be arrested by the police without any warrant since it is a cognizable offence. And to the contrary, if no evidence is produced the matter is not proceeded with. 

If any substantial evidence is found a charge sheet is prepared by the police. 

After completion of the charge sheet the matter is pursued as a trial in the court with the prosecution establishing the ingredients of section 143 and if successfully done then the accused may be imposed with maximum imprisonment up to 6 months or fine or both depending upon the discretion of the court. 

How can you defend your case for the IPC Section 143 offence?

The accused have to firstly apply for bail if he is in the police or judicial custody before the policemen and judge respectively. 

Then the accused has to file a written statement refuting the allegations and the defense has to ensure that the ingredients of unlawful assembly are not fulfilled to attract punishment under section 143. 

How can Lawtendo help you? 

Lawtendo will connect you with domain-specific expert lawyers handpicked with respect to your unique case from its array of 15000 lawyers. And will provide managerial assistance at every stage of the case as well. 

Further, the lawyer will draft a petition for bail or for defending the accused in the trial or on behalf of the victim can file a complaint under section 143 or provide assistance for filing FIR online. 

This blog was drafted by Ms. Garemaa Parihar, BBA LLB, 4th-year student, University of petroleum and energy studies (UPES).
Offence Punishment Cognizance Bail Triable By
Punishment for unlawful assembly Imprisonement of 6 months or more Cognizable Bailable Any Magistrate
Offence Punishment for unlawful assembly
Punishment Imprisonement of 6 months or more
Cognizance Cognizable
Bail Bailable
Triable By Any Magistrate


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