Unlawful Assembly: Meaning and Provision

12 May 2023  Read 558 Views

The more, the merrier is not always the case, especially in unlawful assembly. Be it the recent riots in Manipur or the dreadful time of COVID, when many people gather together, it’s not always a party!

The topic of unlawful assembly in today’s world is highly relevant. People nowadays are more vocal and assertive about their opinions and ideas; they know the strength and power of coming together. But when people gather to protest or to stand their ground, these protests can often turn violent, and the line between lawful and unlawful assembly becomes blurred. 

In this article, we will explore the various provisions relating to unlawful assembly with some case laws and finish it with some frequently asked questions. Let’s dive in!

Right to assemble under the Indian Constitution

Before jumping to what unlawful assembly is, it is essential to know the right to assemble, guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (b). The right to assemble is based on the condition that people are assembled peaceably and without arms. 

What do you mean by unlawful assembly?

Chapter VIII of the Indian Penal Code contains provisions relating to unlawful assembly. The offence of unlawful assembly is cognizable but bailable.

Definition of unlawful assembly

Section 141 defines unlawful assembly. To explain it, unlawful assembly is

  • An assembly of 5 or more persons

  • With a common object

  • To commit any of the five objects mentioned under Section 141

IPC Course

What are those five objects?

A group of 5 or more persons becomes an unlawful assembly only if the object of such assembly is to:

  • Intimidate the Government by use of Criminal Force

  • Resist the execution of law or legal process

  • Commit offences like mischief, criminal trespass

  • Possess or dispossess any property by use of criminal force

  • Use criminal force to compel a person to do an illegal act

Unlawful Assembly Example

A and 4 of his friends decided to protest against a government policy to ban alcohol. It is not an unlawful assembly if they are protesting, sitting silently and showing their displeasure.

Suppose they decide to destroy public property to intimidate the Government for the decision. In that case, all 5 of them are part of unlawful assembly and will be liable to punishment under the Indian Penal Code.

Section 149 of the IPC clearly states that if an offence is committed to prosecuting a common object, then every member of an unlawful assembly sharing such object will be guilty of it. 

Punishment for unlawful assembly under IPC

  • When no weapons are involved: Imprisonment up to 6 months or fine or both (Section 143)

  • When weapons are involved, which can cause death: Imprisonment up to 2 years or fine or both (Section 144)

  • When joining or continuing unlawful assembly after the command of disperse: Imprisonment up to 2 years or fine or both (Section 145)

When unlawful assembly turns into a riot?

Whenever the use of force or violence breaks out in the prosecution of the common object of the unlawful assembly, all the members of the unlawful assembly become guilty of rioting. While they are pretty similar, there are some differences between unlawful assembly and rioting. Go through the following table to understand the difference:

Unlawful Assembly


An unlawful assembly is a group of 5 persons with a common object. There are five objects under Section 141.

When violence or force is used during unlawful assembly, it becomes rioting.

Unlawful assembly is the genus, i.e., a wider concept.

While rioting is the species, i.e., an aggregated part of unlawful assembly.

Punishment for unlawful assembly is imprisonment for up to six months, a fine or both.

Punishment for rioting is imprisonment for up to two years, a fine or both.


Unlawful Assembly Provision under CrPC

The procedure to prevent or control unlawful assemblies under Sections 129 to 132 of CrPC can be in two ways:

  • By Civil Force (Section 129): The Executive Magistrate or officer in charge of a police station may command an assembly to disperse if it is a chance that it will disrupt public peace or is already an unlawful assembly. But can a police officer make arrests if assembly members refuse to disperse? Yes. If necessary, police can arrest the members of unlawful assembly.

  • By Armed Force (Section 130): If the unlawful assembly is not dispersing, then, for public security, the Executive Magistrate of the highest rank may order it to disperse by the armed forces. 

Case laws on unlawful assembly

  • Conviction under Section 149 of IPC is unjustified if the co-accused are acquitted, making the members of unlawful assembly less than 5- Mahendra vs State Of MP, 2022, SC.

  • An overt act of every member of the unlawful assembly is unnecessary if the common object is present from the course of conduct adopted by the members- State of Uttar Pradesh v. Ravindra @ Babloo, 2020, SC.

  • An assembly which is lawful in the beginning can become unlawful if it turns violent and the members start assaulting the victim- Moti Das v. State of Bihar, 1954, SC.


It is important to remember that unlawful assembly covers violent and nonviolent conduct that disturbs peace and public order. The legislation specifies that the gathering must be unlawful with a common object, and the assembly members are vicariously liable. You don’t need to worry about celebrating with a bunch of friends as long as you do not fall under any unlawful assembly criteria.

FAQs on Unlawful Assembly

  1. Can a member of unlawful assembly be charged under IPC even if they have not done any act?

Ans.: Yes, every member of an unlawful assembly is liable even if they are not personally involved, but the punishment might vary.

  1. Who commands the dispersal of unlawful assembly?

Ans.: Dispersal can be ordered by an Executive magistrate or officer in charge of the police station in case of civil force and an Executive Magistrate of the highest rank in case of armed force.

  1. When there is the use of force or violence in an unlawful assembly, it becomes?

Ans.: Rioting is the use of force or violence in an unlawful assembly

  1. Which Article of the Constitution of India provides for the right to assemble peaceably?

Ans.: Article 19 (1) (b)

  1. If a member of the unlawful assembly does not share a common object, will they still be charged under IPC?

Ans.: No, if any of the members do not share a common object, then they cannot be charged for the same

About the Author: Anubha Mishra | 9 Post(s)

She has completed her BA.LLB. from Raipur and is currently pursuing LL.M from TISS Mumbai. She also has a practicing experience of 2 years at District Court, Raipur, as a Junior Advocate.

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