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offences against the state

Supreme Court of India

State (N.C.T. Of Delhi) vs Navjot Sandhu@ Afsan Guru on 4 August, 2005

following principles were culled out :

(i) No specific number of persons is necessary to constitute an offence under S.121, Penal Code.

(ii) The number concerned and the manner in which theyare equipped or armed is not material.

(iii) The true criterion is quo animo ( intention?) did the gathering assemble?

(iv) The object of the gathering must be to attain by force and violence an object of a general public nature, thereby striking directly against the King's authority.

(v) There is no distinction between principal and accessory and all who take part in the unlawful act incur the same guilt."

"We conceive the term 'wages war against the Government' naturally to import a person arraying himself in defiance of the Government in like manner and by like means as a foreign enemy would do, and it seems to us, we presume it did to the authors of the Code that any definition of the term so unambiguous would be superfluous."

It has been aptly said by Sir J.F. Stephen "unlawful assemblies, riots, insurrections, rebellions, levying of war are offences which run into each other and not capable of being marked off by perfectly definite boundaries. All of them have in common one feature, namely, that the normal tranquility of a civilized society is, in each of the cases mentioned, disturbed either by actual force or at least by the show and threat of it".

The expression 'waging war' should not be stretched too far to hold that all the acts of disrupting public order and peace irrespective of their magnitude and repercussions could be reckoned as acts of waging war against the Government. A balanced and realistic approach is called for in construing the expression 'waging war' irrespective of how it was viewed in the long long past. An organized movement attended with violence and attacks against the public officials and armed forces while agitating for the repeal of an unpopular law or for preventing burdensome taxes were viewed as acts of treason in the form of levying war. We doubt whether such construction is in tune with the modern day perspectives and stan