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Legal Provisions of Section 151 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Knowingly joining or continuing in assembly of five or more persons after it has been commanded to disperse:
This section prescribed punishment for knowingly joining or continuing in an assembly of five or more persons, such assembly not being an unlawful assembly, after it has been commanded lawfully to disperse. While this section is similar in nature to section 145 of the Code, the difference between the two lies in the fact that while section 145 prohibits joining or continuing in an unlawful assembly when the same is lawfully commanded to disperse, this section prohibits joining or continuing in an assembly of five or more persons which assembly is not an unlawful assembly.
The explanation under this section clarifies this point and says that if the assembly is an unlawful assembly within the meaning of section 141, the offender will be punishable under section 145. The section says that whoever joins or continues in any assembly of five or more persons likely to cause disturbance of the public peace with knowledge after such assembly has been lawfully commanded to disperse, shall be punished with simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term extending up to six months, or with fine, or with both, Under this section also the assembly must consist of at least five persons even though this assembly is not an unlawful assembly as it does not have a common object as stated under section 141 of the Code.
But this assembly must be likely to cause disturbance of the public peace. If there is no such likelihood, this section does not apply. Here also the assembly must have been lawfully commanded to disperse, and joining or continuing must be with knowledge.
In K. Neelakantha v. State, there were two warring groups who were merely warned by the police. The Supreme Court held that section 151 of the Code was not applicable for convicting the members because the assemblies had not been lawfully commanded to disperse as is required under this section.
Similarly, where a group of persons were peacefully reaping their harvest on their own field when they were commanded by an inspector of police to desist from the same as another group which was hostile to these reapers had objected to the reaping of the harvest, and they did not heed the command, it was held by the Mysore High Court that owners had a right to reap their harvest and, therefore, the command of the inspector was basically wrong.
Again, it was not the assembly of the owners which was disturbing public peace but the assembly of the group hospital to the owners which was doing so. Therefore, in any case the owners were not liable to obey the command.
Further, the command should have been made in accordance with sections 127 and 128 of the Code the Criminal Procedure, 1898 (which corresponds with section 129 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973). Under these circumstances section 151 of the Indian Penal Code was held to be inapplicable.
The word ‘lawfully’ must mean that the person issuing the command to disperse is empowered by law to give such command, and also that the circumstances were such that there was likelihood of disturbance of public peace. In the absence of either of these the Court would be inclined to think that the assembly had not been lawfully commanded to disperse.
The offence under this section is cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by any magistrate.