Section 188 of Indian Penal Code

The Indian Penal Code (IPC), a comprehensive code, defines various offences and crimes, prescribes appropriate punishments. It was adopted in 1860, prepared by the First Law Commission.

Section -188 of IPC deals with offences committed by individuals or groups by displaying disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant in the public interest.

Why is IPC Section 188 in the News?

Recently, it has been in the news due to the violations of lockdown orders during COVID-19 and, on several occasions, the non-adherence on the part of the offenders to the guidelines issued under various other statutes during this phase. Further, those violating the lockdown orders faced legal action under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, which laid down punishment as per Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for flouting such orders.

In this article, we shall be discussing various aspects of this issue, along with the debates surrounding it. Further, this article covers other important dimensions, keeping in mind the demands of the Preliminary as well as the Main Examination of the UPSC IAS Exam.

What is Section 188 of the IPC?

  • Section 188, which comes under the Indian Penal Code’s Chapter X, ‘Of Contempts of the Lawful Authority of Public Servants’, deals with “Disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant.
  • Whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, he is directed to abstain from a certain act or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, disobeys such direction, shall, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury, or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any persons lawfully employed, be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to two hundred rupees, or with both.
  • If such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

Explanation

It is not necessary that the offender should intend to produce harm, or contemplate his disobedience is likely to produce harm. It is sufficient that he knows of the order which he disobeys, and that his disobedience produces, or is likely to produce, harm.

Illustration

An order is promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such an order, directing that a religious procession shall not pass down a certain street. Person ‘A’ knowingly disobeys the order and thereby causes danger of riot. Person ‘A’  has committed the offence defined in this section.

What are the circumstances in which Section 188 IPC can be invoked?

  • To be punishable under Sec. 188, the order has to be for public purposes by public functionaries. An order made in a civil suit between two parties does not fall under this section.
  • An order commanding an assembly of five or more persons to disperse is held to be a valid order under Section 188.
  • There must be evidence that the accused had knowledge of the order with the disobedience of which he is charged. 
  • Mere proof of a general notification promulgating the order does not satisfy the requirements of the section. 
  • Mere disobedience of the order does not constitute an offence in itself, it must be shown that the disobedience has or tends to a certain consequence.

How FIRs are registered for violating section 188 of IPC?

  • The offence is broadly divided into two categories –
    • Cases in which FIR is registered under Section 188 and also under Section 269 and 270 of IPC.
    • Cases that are registered only under Section 188 of IPC.
  • In the first case, the police can omit the investigation under Section 188 of IPC before filing the charge sheet in a competent court, but the charge sheet can be filed for the other offences.
  • When an FIR has been registered only under Section 188 of IPC, the police have to drop the case and file a complaint in the competent court.

However, the challenge during difficult times, such as lockdown, lies in getting a written complaint from the concerned public servant if there is a violation of Section 188 of IPC.  

What are the procedures followed under Section 188 of the IPC?

  • The police have the power to arrest the person without a warrant, register an FIR under Section 154 of the CrPC, initiate the investigation into the offence.  
  • After the completion of the investigation, police can proceed to file a police report under Section 173 of the CrPC.
  • Based on this, the court initiates the trial and takes cognizance of the offence.  
  • Under Section 195 (1)(a) of the CrPC, the court can take cognizance of the offence punishable under Section 172 to 188 of the IPC if there is an existing written complaint of the public servant concerned or his superior.
  • In the case of Jeevanandham v. State, 2018  the Madras High Court held that it is mandatory to follow the procedure of Section 195 of CrPC to prosecute an accused of an offence under Section 188 of IPC,  and in its absence, such action would be rendered void, null and legally ineffective. 
  • There must be a complaint by the public servant whose lawful order has not been complied with. 
  • The power of police officials is limited to preventive action. 
  • He/she has to inform the concerned public servant to enable him/her to proceed with the complaint before the Court.

Conclusion

As law-abiding citizens, it is their responsibility to follow the directives issued by a competent authority in the larger public interest. The law of the land has to be in tune with the demands of the changing times. At times, there may be a conflict between two provisions of law. It is important to place the broader intention of the legislature while interpreting the procedural law. Similarly, the rules and procedures  established by law need to reach the common man, and the role of civil society in this endeavour is paramount

In these times of difficulty, such as a lockdown or natural calamities or law and order issues, citizens must cooperate with the law enforcement agencies to maintain public order and peace. Further, due grievances of the affected citizens must be addressed. The procedural and infrastructural challenges confronting the implementing agencies must be addressed to facilitate the process of ensuring justice.

This article is relevant for the Polity section of the UPSC syllabus prescribed for the Preliminary and Main Examination of Civil Services Exam.

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