Every Member of Unlawful Assembly Guilty of Offence Committed in Prosecution of Common Object - Section 149

Every Member of Unlawful Assembly Guilty of Offence Committed in Prosecution of Common Object - Section 149

Chapter VIII of Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with the offences against the public tranquility. Public Tranquility means when a group of people come together with a common object for an activity which may cause disturbance to the public at large. Mostly these activities are criminal in nature and also have more than five members. It not just affects the public at large but also the State. It contains from Section 141 to 160. This blog deals with Section 149 of IPC. 

Section 149 states that 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. 

To commit an offence under this Section there should be unlawful assembly (more than 5 members) having one or more common object as per Section 141 of IPC and it could be understood from gathering of the members, their nature of assembly, the arms and weapons carried by them and the behaviour of the members before occurrence of the offence. Under this Section it creates a joint liability on the members of the assembly for criminal acts done by anyone  for common objects as decided.

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Scope of Section 149:

  1. In Prosecution of the Common Object: The offence must be committed in accordance with the common object of unlawful assembly. It must be seen that common objects are fulfilled by unlawful assembly. 

  2. Members should know about the occurrence of offence: All the members of unlawful assembly must have knowledge about a particular offence being committed. 

Punishments for Section 149 IPC

The punishment of such offence is the same as the offence committed. For eg. if there is murder done then it will be said that section 302 read with section 149 IPC.

Nature of Section 149 IPC

  1. Offences under this Section may be Cognizable or Non-Cognizable as the case may be. If the police take cognizance then it will be Cognizable offence. If a police officer does not take cognizance then we may go to the Magistrate and then he will direct to investigate the matter.this is known as Non-Cognizable offence

  2. Offences under this Section may be Bailable or Non-Bailable. This means the court may see how serious or grave the offence is committed and what harm it has done to the society as large.

  3. These offences are Non-Compoundable that means  there cannot be settlement made by the complainant and the accused to drop the charges laid down. 

IPC 149 can be tried by the court who tries the offence. The Ministry concerned with this offence would be the Ministry of Home Affairs and the department in this offence is the Department of Internal Security.

Essential ingredients of Section 149 IPC:

  1. There must be an unlawful assembly as per Section 141 IPC

  2. There must be an occurrence of a criminal act by any of the members.

  3. The Act is done for the prosecution of the Common Object of the Assembly.

  4. There must be voluntary joining of the assembly and must know the common object properly.

  5. Even if a member is only present and knows the common object will be personally liable for the offence even if he had no intention to commit the offence.

How you will file/defend your case for Section 149 IPC:

  1. Once the offence is committed and a person goes for  registering complaint firstly the police officer will see to it that the offence committed is cognizable offence or non-cognizable offence , if the offence is cognizable then he will register the complaint and start investigation. If it is a non-cognizable offence the police officer will not start the investigation immediately but wait for the confirmation from the Magistrate to whom the report is sent.

  2. When the investigation starts, if enough proof is found against the victim then the police officer may arrest him.If no evidence is found then the case will be closed.

  3. Afterwards a chargesheet is prepared in which all the records will be mentioned.

  4.  The case will then be taken to court where both the parties through lawyers will be heard.

  5. Finally the judgement will be passed.

Model Form of charge under Section149:

“ I (name and office of Magistrate, etc.) hereby charge you (name of the accused) as follows:

That, on or about the _______ day of _______ at_________ you were a member of an unlawful assembly, one of the members of which committed the offence of__________ (specify the offence) in prosecution of ( merely specify the common object) of that assembly (or the offence of _________ which the members of that Assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object) and you, being a member of that assembly, at the time of committing of that offence, are, therefore, guilty of that offence punishable under ___________ (specify the section), read with Section 149 of IPC, and within my cognizance (or within the cognizance of the Court of Session).

And I hereby direct that you be tried by this Court (or by the aid Court) on the said charge”

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Some Famous Judgements:

  1. Bhudeo Mandal and others v/s State of Bihar, 1981

There was an irrigation dispute between prosecution and appellants. As per the prosecution, appellants wanted to irrigate the land and when they were prevented from doing so, Mainu mandal resisted as a result of which Bhudeo Mandal who is now dead gave a blow to the deceased Mainu Mandal. Other appellants were armed with lathis but they didn't cause any injuries either to witness or the deceased. The sessions judge had convicted the accused Bhudeo Mandal under section 304 IPC and and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for life and other appellants under section 326 / 149 IPC and sentenced them to 3 years rigorous imprisonment , but there was acquittal of the accused of the individual charges under section 323 and 325 of IPC. Before convicting the accused under Section 149, there must be clear finding regarding the nature of the common object and that such an object is unlawful. The absence of such findings, as also any overt act on the part of the accused, the mere fact that the accused were armed would not be sufficient to prove the common object. Here the other appellants were just having lathis with them but they did not attack anyone. In this case there was no evidence nor any findings that any essential ingredients of Section 149 was established by the prosecution. As a result appellants were discharged from their bail bonds and need not surrender.

  1.  Dilbagh Singh v/s State of UP (1980)

The accused persons after making a concerted plan to annihilate the deceased and his associates, they invited them at night for resolving a long standing dispute between the parties. As soon as the deceased and his associates reached the spot, all the accused opened fire on them and all of them also participated in removing the dead bodies of the deceased persons. 

In this case the Court held that the facts led to inference that there was a prearranged plan and a common object and therefore they were liable under Section 149 IPC.

Offence Punishment Cognizance Bail Triable By
Vicarious liability of members of unlawful assembly. The same as that of the offence committed. In accordance with the offence committed. In accordance with the offence committed. In accordance with the offence committed.
Offence Vicarious liability of members of unlawful assembly.
Punishment The same as that of the offence committed.
Cognizance In accordance with the offence committed.
Bail In accordance with the offence committed.
Triable By In accordance with the offence committed.


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