An Unlawful Assembly of People in a Particular State Activity

In our day to day life we come across the terms ‘Riot’ and ‘Affray’. The question is what these terms means. Basically riot and affray both are the offences defined by the law in the INDIAN PENAL CODE which are said to be offences against public tranquillity. It means these are the offences which can disturb the peace or calmness of the society or the public. For the development of the society it is must needed that there is peace in our society. The offences of riot and affray have been defined under section 146, 147 and section 159 ,160.

Riot has been defined in the Indian Penal Code under section 146 and 147. Basically section 146 defines the act and section 147 deals with the punishment part. Section 146 states: ‘Whenever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly, or by any member thereof, in prosecution of common object of such assembly, every member of such assembly is guilty of the offence of rioting.’

We can say that riot is an unlawful assembly of people in a particular state activity, which activity is accompanied by the use of force and violence. It is only the use of force that distinguishes rioting from an unlawful assembly.

There are few ingredients to constitute a riot and also these ingredients needs to be proved in the court by the prosecution for a successful filing of the case of riot. These are as follows:

  • There should be 5 or more people.
  • A common purpose is needed.
  • They had begun to execute that purpose.
  • There should be(if necessary) and intention of help to one another by force.
  • Degree of violence should be high to disturb the public peace.
  • It should be an unlawful assembly.

Also in a riot the number and nature of injuries is also relevant to be considered. So these are some of the essential elements of the riot.

Now talking about section 147 of the Indian Penal Code which defines punishment of riot states that : ‘Whoever is guilty of rioting, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may exceed to two years, or with fine or with both’ .

So these are the provisions related to the rioting. There are many other facts about rioting which have been recognized by the law. Also if under the section 320 of CrPC if the offence is compoundable and also if the person accused is charged under section 34 and section 149 of the Indian Penal Code then it may be compounded in like manner. As in a case of rioting in which a mob of almost 1400 people allegedly surrounded the premises of Mr Bhubeshwar Thakur and his brother Parmeshwar Thakur in order to commit loot for political reasons. The cause of the occurrence is that they wanted Comrade Sukhdev Sharma to be the mukhiya which indicates that the appellants belong to a certain party. An argument has been raised that the police has opened fire without any reason on gathering of persons holding a ,meeting which was peaceful and as such prosecution has not been able to establish the place of occurrence. This argument cannot be sustained in view of the fact that dead bodies were recovered from the place of occurrence. Conviction of 26 person is upheld.

Similarly in the case of Mohd. Ishaq vs. Kazam Pasha, (2009) 12 SCC 748:2009 CrLJ 3063, the Supreme court reversed the order of the High court in which a group of almost 70 people armed with deadly weapons forcefully broke down into a house, removed and loaded all the articles in a lorry and took away with them, person at whose instance the acted held liable by the Supreme Court.

Riot is a different term and should not compared with free fight. As there is neither an unlawful assembly nor any common intention and also each accused will be responsible for his or her act separately as stated by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in the case of Mangal Singh vs. State of MP.

In a riot the trials run are separate as there cannot be a common intention between two parties. So each party is should be tried separately. Now there is a similar offence which is also against public tranquillity known as Affray. Affray should not be confused with Riot. They might seem to be similar but are different in some aspects. Affray is defined under sections 159 and 160 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 159 defines the act of affray and section 160 defines the punishment of affray.

According to Blackstone “The offence is the fighting of two or more persons in a public place to the terror of His Majesty’s subjects for, if the fighting be in private, it is not an affray but an assault”. There are some important cases related to affray like in the case of Jagannath Sah[(1937) O.W.N. 37] there were two brothers fighting one another in public. A gathering of people surrounded them and even the traffic was jammed. When this case was challenged in court it was held that there was not an affray as the first ingredient was missing out.

In the case of Babu Ram and Anr. Vs. Emperor[(1930) I.L.R. 53 All 299] the petitioner was attacked by two other persons in public place. He was unable to defend himself from them. In the court it was held that they the attackers were guilty of the affray as each and every ingredients required were present in the case.

Affray is a bailable , non- compoundable as well as a cognisable offence and can be tried by any magistrate. Section 160 defines the punishment for committing an affray and it states: “Whoever commits an affray shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to one hundred rupees, or with both”.

Generally people get confused and mingle riot, affray and assault with each other. All these terms may seem similar from their nature of act but are slightly different from each others. Talking about the differences between Riot and Affray, there are very small differences.

Place of occurrence: Riot can occur at public place but for an affray to occur public place is necessary. Number of persons: For committing a riot the minimum number of people required is five or more and for an affray to be caused there should be minimum of two or more persons. So these two are the general differences between a riot and an affray.


So we can say that riot and affray both are the offences against the public tranquillity and has been mentioned in the Indian Penal Code,1860. All these acts are against public peace and can destroy the smooth flow of the society. So the courts keep a check by giving justice to the people who suffered from these acts under section 147 and section 160 of the Indian Penal Code.