Analysis of Conviction of Rioters in India

The Koregaon Bhima incident was a burning issue for a long time considering the vast impacts and implications the incident had on the Indian society, This blog dwells further on the same topic while talking about aspects regarding liberalism, Hindutva, anti-nationalism while questionaning and arguing some key concepts.

All the excitement to dance and celebrate the victory of Mahar soldiers against tyranny of casteism that prevailed at the time of Peshwa rule withered away when Bhima Koregaon was bashed by a right-wing organisation alleging the event to be anti-national. Soon the place was revamped with another battle,this time with scores of violent acts including murder, vandalism and stone pelting. Considering the recent events that happened in the country the Bhima Koregaon riot cannot be ignored as a sporadic incident of communal violence. This is just one act of violence among various riots that intrudes peaceful life in the country. Unfortunately the increase in the number of such incidents is inversely proportional to the conviction rates of these rioters.

Topics Covered in this article

Definition of Rioting

The Constitution of India, 1950 through Article 19 (1) (b) recognises the fundamental right of its citizens to assemble anywhere in the country. Nonetheless, as per Section 141, IPC, 1860 when five or more persons assemble together to achieve any of the common object mentioned in the section with knowledge and concurrence for the same and with an intention to fulfil some present and immediate purpose, this assembly is identified as an unlawful assembly. When such an unlawful assembly uses force or violence every member of that assembly is indicted for rioting as per Section 146, IPC, 1860 and punished with an imprisonment for maximum of 2 years or 3 years, in case of usage of deadly weapons and/or fine.

Procedure for Conviction under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

Though Section 223 of CrPC directs for a joint trial in case of joint offenders it is up to the Court to have a joint or separate trial considering the facts and circumstances of each case. The presence of a common object is the critical and the most challenging element in convicting rioters as it cannot be proved directly.[1]Consequently, testimony of witnesses plays a key role in the trial of rioters aiding the court to conclude the presence of a common object. In the case of numerous witnesses, the court will look into the basic features of the incident as recalled by the witnesses to see if it goes in par with the outcome of the riot i.e. to give a stable version of the incident[2]. Furthermore, Lalji&Ors. v. State of Uttar Pradesh[3] relaxed the burden upon the prosecution by taking away the obligation to prove the act performed by each member individually by holding every member of the assembly guilty of the offense of rioting. Thus, even in the absence of an overt act by the accused, if the person is a member of the assembly he is booked for rioting as per Section 149 of IPC, 1860.

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Conviction of Rioters

Though the data published by the National Crime Records Bureau indicates a decline in the number of riots occurred in 2016, unfortunately the conviction rates have also dropped alongside. The reasons for the same are stated below;

  1. Communalism

Political parties promote hostility among people based on their religion, place of birth, language, etc., to disturb harmony.

  • Lack of Independence

The involvement of a political factor in most of the riots is a public secret and because of this the independence of investigation and trial are being interrupted. Though more than 20 commissions have inquired on major riots in India not even one accused politician has been convicted. 

  • Pendency of cases

The increase in number of pending criminal trials and investigations result in low rate of convictions and also dismantles evidence.

Conclusion

Foremost reason for the impediment in conviction rate is politicisation of riots. As there are not many options for the people to choose, there will hardly be any political repercussions. It is high time to realise that these atrocities are based on dearth of awareness among people about their rights and powers as citizens of this country. Manipulation by the media based on their policies, political ideologies etc. also enhance this ignorance. Such ignorance leads to submissiveness. The solution to curb the issue from its root is to cultivate ‘the ability to question’ among public. For this, basic rights should be educated to them from a young age. Therefore, primary aim of the system should be to establish rule of law and not rule of certain people.

Also read Evolution of Rule of Law into the 21st Century


[1]Ramjanam Pandey v. State of Bihar, 1993 (2) ALT Cri 467

[2] State of U.P. v. Dan Singh, 1997 (3) SCC 747

[3]Lalji&Ors. v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1985 SC 1403

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