|How crime is defined by society?
|Analysis of crimes against the society
A crime committed against society at large that puts society’s safety at risk is known as public tranquillity or offense against society. It is not necessary that an actual offence is committed towards society, even an apprehension is created in the mind of the public at large or society, even if an apprehension is created in the mind of the public at large or the society that they are under the threat of an offense or an action by any person would result in an injury to them is necessary enough to constitute to an offense against the society. These offenses are usually committed by individuals in a group with a common object to hamper the peace of society.
How crime is defined by society?
The word society has been derived from the Latin word ‘ socius meaning association. Therefore, a society can be defined as an ‘association of people or people in a group who are related to each other by means of some common traits. While governing a society, the interests of the people are taken at large rather than depending on the needs and wants of one single person. The requirement of the people at large is considered. Different Legislations are not passed for different individuals, for one single society common legislation is applicable to them. A committed is defined as a crime only when it is wrong in the eyes of society.
If a particular act is not opposed by a group of people, then it can never be considered an offense. For example, trespass, money laundering, and bribery these acts wouldn’t be a crime if it was not wrong in the eyes of society. Therefore, what society thinks is important in defining a crime.
The foundation of a society lies in the maintenance of peace and morals. Therefore, chapter 8 of IPC has been framed to deal with those actions which would put society’s peace at risk. The offenses which put public safety at risk can be classified into rioting, unlawful assembly, affray, assembly of five or more people in a situation where dispersion has been ordered and promotion of enmity between different classes of people.
Analysis of crimes against the society
Section 141- unlawful assembly: Every person has the fundamental right to assemble peacefully under Article 19(1)(b). However, certain circumstances given under section 141 of the IPC lead to unlawful assembly and it is considered a criminal offense. Any assembly which has been formed with 5 or more people with the intention to commit an unlawful offense is called an unlawful assembly. People in groups with a common intention and object to gather unlawfully and create a threat to the public peace is always dangerous. This is the main reason why unlawful assembly is criminalized. When an assembly gathered lawfully turns out to be aggressive and indulges in unlawful means, it will come under the purview of section 141 of IPC. The instances where there is a shift from lawful assembly to unlawful assembly is when the object of the assembly changes to resist legal proceedings, using criminal force against the state or any public servant, to committing trespass or mischief of the property of any person, to using criminal force against a person to make him do something against the law.
In the case P.S. Kirubakaran v. Commr. of Police, Vepery (2021), In this case, a group of advocates indulged in certain criminal activities like forcibly getting possession of certain properties, destruction of properties, etc., and therefore they caused the interruption in the peace of the society. The court charged them with the offense of unlawful assembly and took measures to curb such practices.
In the case of Amrika Bai v. State of Chhattisgarh (2019)., dealing with the offense of unlawful assembly and the scope of section 141 of IPC was analysed. In this case, the cattle of the deceased jumped on the door of the appellant as a result exchange of words took place and the appellant started abusing the deceased after which an attack by a group of people took place, and eventually the deceased died. The appellant also sustained injuries during the attack and challenged before the court that he was unarmed during the attack and therefore he is not a part of the unlawful assembly. The court acquitted the accused.
Merely a person being part of an assembly that has indulged in an unlawful act is not enough, it is also necessary that at the time of the commission of the act, the people indulged also had the same object. Therefore, in the present times, section 149 is one of the most misused sections as it is difficult to interpret every person’s object in an assembly and there are chances of misrepresentations where an innocent person would be charged with a crime.
Section 146- Rioting: Rioting is dealt with under sections 146 and 147 of the IPC. Riot is similar to that unlawful assembly, and the only difference is the term violence. If an unlawful assembly starts to get engaged in any violent act, it will be known as a riot. Therefore, the ingredients of rioting are the same as that of unlawful assembly which is a common intention. Engaging in violence is always a threat to the harmony of society. It will affect the co-existence of society. . Rioting Is committed as a means to show the group’s intention to oppose the policies of the government, the outcome of any legislation passed or a judgment made, etc. Under most circumstances, grave and sudden provocation lead to riots. An act done in sudden provocation is considered a defense under IPC. But the impact of this act is so huge as it can even cause disintegration and heavy losses and damages.
In the case Bilkis Yakub Rasool v. State of Gujarat (2019), the appellant was a victim of gang rape that occurred during a riot in the year 2002 which came to be known as godhara train incident. She also lost her family during the attack. The Supreme Court in this case gave a compensation of 50 lakhs to the appellant under section 147 of IPC who was surviving with a daughter deprived of basic necessities of life such as food, shelter, etc.
Affray: Affray is usually committed by 2 or more people when they fight in public which disrupts the peace of society. The offense is committed in such a manner that there must be some sort of disturbance to the public arising out of the actions of the people engaging in the fight. For example, If one person comes and attacks another person by knocking him down in a private place, it does not amount to affray as there is no chance of the act disrupting the peace of the society. Punishment for the offense of affray is imprisonment of one month or fine or both. Punishment is less compared to rioting and unlawful assembly only because of the fact that the impact caused by the offense of affray is much less.
Section 153- Promoting enmity between classes. The outcome of a clash between different communities of society is huge. Thus, the need to criminalize the act of causing enmity was considered, and causing enmity between people belonging to different classes or different sections of society based on class, sex, religion, language, place of birth, etc. is considered a criminal offense. This section is wide in nature and consists of those offenses like moral corruption. The validity of this section has been challenged overtime on the basis that it is a violation of Article 19(1)(a) as it restricts freedom of speech and expression for any statement made which can create an enmity between communities. But the validity of this section was still upheld considering the fact that creating disruption among communities can lead to a threat to the country’s national security and sovereignty. Every person has the right to express their opinions through any means but there are certain restrictions laid down under article 19(1)(f) and promoting enmity is one such restriction.
In the case Patricia Mukhim v. State of Meghalaya & Ors. (2021), In this case, the appellant through the means of the social media platform ‘Facebook’ posted writing representing the non-tribal group of Meghalaya, and therefore, he was charged under section 153A of the IPC. The court in this case analyzed section 153A of IPC and held that the main intention behind this section is to prevent any sort of act which would disrupt public harmony and create a threat to the nation’s sovereignty or national security. The appellant didn’t have any motive to create disturbances among communities by publishing the statement and it was just pleading for equality.
The concept of good faith plays an integral role to define the offense of promoting enmity. Actions that are done in good faith without a wrongful intention are always a defense.
Vinod Dua V. Union of India & Ors. (2020), In this case, the petitioner filed for a writ petition under Article 32 of the constitution. The petitioner was accused of creating a disturbance in society by making malicious statements against the prime minister and the government through his youtube channel for providing false information regarding PPE kits to the public. The Supreme court in this case held that the statement made by the petitioner was just a disagreement against the policies of the government and that won’t cause any disturbance to the peace of the society.
In the case Bijumon v. State of Kerala (2018)., In this case, the accused was charged under section 153A for publishing wrong information regarding a communal war between Christians and Muslims. The petition for anticipatory bail from the side of the accused was dismissed by the court as a such publication can result in putting the public peace in danger.
The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) by the Uniform crime reporting program, each offense reported where classified into offenses against persons, offenses against property, and offenses against society. Offenses against society are basically victimless offenses that put the safety of society at risk. Some offenses classified as offenses against society in the alphabetic order are animal cruelty, drug violations, gambling offenses such as betting or wagering, offenses under pornography or obscene material, prostitution offenses, weapon law violations, intoxication such as drunk and drive, family offenses, and trespass of real property.
In a recent judgment, the Allahabad High court denied a bail application of a baba who was accused of raping a minor girl and stated that ‘rape is not just a crime against an individual it is a crime against society.’ Sexual assault against a girl would result in inducing trauma in the mind of any girl belonging to that society, not just the victim. The impact of the offense is something that must be overlooked. If the impact of an offense is on one single person it cannot be a crime against society. If a person is stabbed by his colleague during an argument it can never be a crime against society as the impact of the crime is on the victim only. But when the person has been murdered in a heinous manner, this creates a situation of fear in the minds of the people in the society too. The impact is not just on the victim or the family of the victim. It is collective in nature.
Similarly, a bench of Justices S A Nazeer and V Ramasubramanian made the observation that the practice of corruption by a public servant is an offense against the state or the society, and such cases cannot be dealt with under the suit of specific performances. The offense of corruption is of the nature that people in the society as a whole will start losing their trust in the government and other officials, as well as the rich or privileged section, would get an upper hand in the society. This might lead to the disintegration of the nation and society. Therefore, the impact is huge.
The public or society is considered the core of the country’s democracy, Therefore, any offense which is committed against an individual does not come under the purview of the chapter of IPC but it can disrupt public peace and is categorized as an offense against society. During the pandemic, there was a steady increase in the number of cases against society, especially through social media. A lot of wrong information about the spreading of covid 19 government policies was spread across the nation creating a situation that made society to be panic.
Along with the legislation and the laws brought in to tackle the offenses against society, the judgments passed in various cases are also an essential means to maintain public peace.
- P.S. Kirubakaran v. Commr. of Police., SCC OnLine Mad 508.
- Amrika Bai v. State of Chhattisgarh., (2019) 4 SCC 620.
- Bilkis Yakub Rasool v. State of Gujarat., (2020) 13 SCC 733.
- Patricia Mukhim v. State of Meghalaya & Ors., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 258.
- Vinod Dua v. Union of India & Ors., 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1209.
- Bijumon v. State of Kerala., 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 11481.
- Press Trust of India, Rape is a crime against society, not just an individual: HC, The Times of India (Jan 03, 2023, 11:50 IST), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/allahabad/rape-a-crime-against-society-not-just-an-individual-hc/articleshow/85875192.cms
This article is written by Vishal Menon, from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.