The Karnataka High Court has observed that apartment residents joining hands with the intention to prevent public authority while discharging its duty constitutes lawful assembly under Section 149 IPC.

Justice K. Natarajan held –

"The petitioners, being the owners of the Apartment, must be in the Apartment, but they altogether joined their hands with an intention to prevent the public authority while discharging duty, which attracts Section 149 of IPC i.e. common object and unlawful assembly under Section 143 of IPC for committing an offence on the public servant."

In this case, a criminal case was registered against the residents of an apartment society who had allegedly gathered and prevented officials of BBMP from surveying and removing encroachment over Rajakaluve as per the Court's directions.

The Petitioners had contended before the Court that the BBMP officials have already removed the encroachment and surveyed the land and once again, there was nothing to survey.

It was argued that the Petitioners peacefully went on strike and they have not agitated against the officials or the Police. Hence, conducting an investigation against them was an abuse of the process of law and therefore, prayed for quashing the same.

It was also argued that offence against the Petitioners under Section 353 IPC would not be attracted as they are the residents of the apartment and there is no illegal intention in assembling together.

The Court noted that it was not in dispute that the Division Bench of the Court had earlier directed the officials of BBMP to remove the obstruction and put-up fencing on the Rajakaluve.

The Court further noted that when the officials went to the spot for discharging their official duty and to execute the order the Court, the Petitioners assembled on their way and they started doing strike sitting on the way in not allowing the BBMP officers to execute the order of the Court and to discharge the official duty.

The Court held that it was a clear case of Section 353 IPC against the Petitioners for having obstructed the complainant along with the officers while surveying the encroachment and put-up fencing as per the orders of the Court.

The Court further held, "That apart, it is an admitted fact that subsequent to the registering the case against the petitioners, the BBMP officers were able to put fencing on the area recovered from the encroachment. Therefore, it cannot be said that the offences are not made out for investigating the matter. The photographs and video clippings reveals the incident occurred for having prevented the officials of BBMP by the petitioners. There is prima facie material to show that there is cognizable offence made out for conducting investigation."

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the Petition and held that the Police may proceed with the investigation and file a charge sheet.

Cause Title – Mr Uma Shankar Mohapatra & Ors. v. The State of Karnataka & Ors.

Click here to read/download the Order