Public Order and Tranquillity is paramount for any society. The government needs to ensure the maintenance of the public order. It is indispensable for the smooth and proper functioning of society and for the citizens to enjoy their liberty and free state of mind. In a situation of disorder, the enforcement of law and order is the duty and function of the police and legal system. To enable the same, the Criminal Code of Procedure provides for the maintenance of public order and tranquillity. Maintenance of public order requires that the order should be maintained in public places and should not be obstructed by assemblies and processions. The article deals with the concept of public order and tranquillity. It mainly focuses on the police officers’ duty in times of public disorder. The public disorder might be caused due to unlawful assembly, riots, mass gathering causing arson or violence, etc. Several provisions have been laid down in the Indian Penal Code, The Code of Criminal Procedure, and The Police Act for the maintenance of public order and tranquillity. Maintenance of Public Order and Tranquillity has been dealt with specifically under Chapter X of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Chapter X of the CrPC has been divided into four parts that classify the offences mentioned within each of them for disturbing the peace and order in the society. These are Part A– Unlawful Assemblies, Part B – Public Nuisances, Part C – Urgent Cases of Nuisance, or Apprehended Danger and Part D –Disputes as to Immovable property. In the following section, all these sections will be thoroughly discussed in order to create an exhaustive knowledge base related to these offences against public order and tranquillity.
PART A: UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY
An unlawful assembly is a group of five or more than five persons that have a common object and engages in illegal acts such as compelling a person to do an unlawful act. Thus it is desirable for law enforcement bodies to disperse such unlawful assembly as per the sections provided.
SECTION 129: USE OF CIVIL FORCE FOR DISPERSAL OF AN ASSEMBLY
According to section 129 of Cr.P.C, the order to disperse any assembly that is an unlawful one and likely to cause disturbance to the public peace may be issued by-
1. Any executive Magistrate
2. Officer in charge of a police station or,
3. Any police officer who is a sub-inspector or above the rank of sub-inspector in the absence of such officer in charge
Post-issuance of such order of dispersal, it is the duty of the members of the assembly to whom such notice is issued to disperse accordingly. However, in case the assembly does not comply with the order and does not disperse then any Executive Magistrate or officer in-charge of a police station or in absence of the officer-in-charge by a police officer, not below the rank of sub-inspector as empowered under section 129 may use force in order to disperse such unlawful assembly. If necessary, even if a person is not an officer of armed force but acting as one, may arrest or confine the members of such unlawful assembly for subsequent punishing according to the law.
SECTION 130: USE OF ARMED FORCES TO DISPERSE THE ASSEMBLY
Section 130 of CrPC is applicable in the situation where the unlawful assembly cannot be dispersed otherwise.
1. When an unlawful assembly cannot be dispersed by any other means, and when it is necessary for the public security that such assembly should be dispersed, it can be dispersed with the help of armed forces by the order of Executive Magistrate of the highest rank present.
2. Such Magistrate may order any officer in command of any group of persons belonging to the armed forces to take the help of armed forces under his command to disperse the assembly. He is also empowered to arrest or confine the members of such assembly in order to maintain public security in accordance with the orders of the Magistrate. He has also the power to have them punished according to law.
3. The requisitions laid down under this section shall be obeyed by every officer of the armed forces empowered under this section in such manner as he thinks fit. While following the orders and taking any step to maintain public security, he shall use as little force with the objective of maintenance of public order.
Thus, section 130 gives the authorities the right to use force to disperse the unlawful assembly when it is needed in the interest of maintaining public security.
SECTION 131: POWERS OF CERTAIN ARMED FORCE OFFICERS TO DISPERSE THE ASSEMBLY
Section 131 is operational and envisages such situations where the officers of armed force cannot establish a link or communicate with the Executive Magistrate as under Section 130 of the CrPC. In such a situation, where it is paramount for the armed forces to maintain peace and order caused by the unlawful assembly and they cannot wait for the orders from the Executive Magistrate, they shall proceed to deploy force to disperse such assembly. However, during this time, if it becomes viable and possible for them to establish communication with the Magistrate they shall do so and act as per the orders by the Executive Magistrate.
This section has been enacted in order to lay down provisions to maintain public security in the case when no executive magistrate can be reached so that the public order and tranquility can be maintained more efficiently.
SECTION 132: PROTECTION AGAINST PROSECUTION FOR ACTS DONE UNDER PROCEEDING SECTIONS
Protection against the prosecution for any act done under section 129 to 131 of the CrPC is provided under section 132 and no officer acting under the duty shall be prosecuted except with the sanction of State or Central Government.
Section 132 no prosecution shall be instituted in any Criminal Court against any person for any act purporting to be done under section 129, section 130 or section 131, except in the case where the central or state government sanctions the same. Since the officers, the Executive Magistrate, members of armed forces, and other officers were acting in good faith and as per the compliance with the sections as a part of their duty, they ought to be provided protection by the law. However, in case an officer leaps beyond the boundaries of the law such as ordering or actually firing at the assembly when it is not required shall not be provided protection under section 132.
PART B: PUBLIC NUISANCES
The term public nuisance has been defined under section 268 of the Indian Penal Code as an act or omission which causes any injury, danger or annoyance to the public or to the people in general who dwell or occupy the property in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right. Though it is not so dangerous and urgent as unlawful assembly, a public nuisance is a threat to public peace and security. Thus there are following provisions under Cr.P.C as section 133,134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, and 143 that deal with the procedural aspect in cases of nuisance.
SECTION 133: CONDITIONAL ORDER FOR REMOVAL OF NUISANCE
Section 133 provides for the passing of conditional order by any Magistrate in case of public nuisance caused by any of the things as specified under the section. It has been held that while instituting a criminal proceeding under section 133 there is no bar to institute a civil suit.
There are six categories of public nuisance which can be resolved under this section:
1. The unlawful obstruction or nuisance to any public place or to anyway, river or channel lawfully used by the public.
2. The conduct of any trade or occupation or keeping of any goods or merchandise which is/can be injurious to the health or physical comfort of the community.
3. The construction of any building, or disposal of any substance, as it is likely to occasion or explosion.
4. A building, tent, or structure, or a tree as it is likely to cause damage or injury to a person.
5. An unfenced tank, well or excavation near a public place or way.
6. A dangerous animal that requires confinement, destruction, or disposal.
A conditional order under section 133 of Cr.P.C is mandatory and without it, no final order can be made. The conditional order must specify the time period in which the nuisance or obstruction is to be removed or resolved. The conditional order can be passed to remove the obstruction or nuisance, to abstain from carrying on such trade, to remove or regulate as ordered such goods or merchandise causing a nuisance, to remove, repair or support such building, to confine or dispose of such dangerous animal as manner prescribed in the order.
SECTION 134: SERVICE OR NOTIFICATION OF ORDER
Section 134 and 135 of the CrPC provide for service or notification of order issued to the person for causing nuisance and to obey the order or show cause against the order issued respectively. Under section 134 the order is followed for service of summons or shall be served by proclamation. Under section 135 a person can either carry out the order by acting as per the instructions or can show cause. A reasonable opportunity should be given to the party to show cause under section 135(b).
SECTION 136: CONSEQUENCES OF FAILING TO OBEY SUCH ORDER
According to section 136, If the person against whom the order is issued fails to perform such act or appear and show cause, he is liable to the penalty prescribed under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, i.e., Disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant.
In the case of Nagarjuna Paper Mills Ltd. v. S.D.M. & R.D. Officer, Sangareddy, the court held that Sub- Divisional Magistrate is empowered to pass an order under section 136 of the code to close factory causing pollution as it failed to produce appreciation certificate from the Pollution Control Board.