Analysis of Affray as compared to Riots


Aaryan Dhar

The Indian Penal Code of the country is filled with several laws governing public violence, which results in disturbing the peace and harmony of the society or causes harm and grievous hurt or both. The laws, rules and procedures to deal with each kind of public violence is different and even though the two acts (Eg. Affray and Riots) are similar in nature, the elements of the crime differ and hence giving different punishments for the same. The difference between the two will be the topic of analysis of the paper.



Affray refers to a skirmish or battle between 2 or more people in which a strike is given or provided, or a sword is drawn. An affray is a public offense that instils fear in the public. Affray is described in Section 159 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 as when two or more people clash in a public place and disrupt the peace and harmony of the public.

The term affray derives from the French word “affraier”, which implies “to frighten,” and it is used to describe a public crime that creates panic in the community. It is essential that an alarm was caused to the public or members of the community for this crime to result in a conviction. It is not mandatory for any individual member of the public to testify that he or she was alarmed. The involvement of the public at the time of the disruption may be ample evidence that the public was alarmed by the disruption and that there was an ample breach of the peace.


Section 146 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 explains the term rioting. Rioting occurs when a group of persons, or any person within that group, commits an offense. The participation of at least five members is needed for rioting. This crime typically arises from civil strife and is marked by abrupt and provocative behaviour. It reflects a sheep mentality, which is why even if a member of the guilty party has not committed a violent crime, he or she will be held responsible for rioting.

A shared purpose and object of committing a crime is one of the most significant components of rioting. This shared purpose leaves everyone in the party vulnerable to punishment, even though they have not participated in the rioting themselves.

Historically, rioting has occurred in response to concerns over political policy, the result of a sports event, dissatisfaction with some legal judgment, taxes, injustice, racial disputes, or as a means of channelling people’s oppression to the government.

Essentials Ingredients


The following are the elements of an affray:

  • Fighting between two or more individuals-

Affray is still a fight, i.e., a bilateral act between two people, and it would not be considered an affray if the person who is attacked accepts the assault without resistance. When participants of one-party assault members of the opposing party, the latter does not retaliate or threaten to retaliate, but instead remains inactive. This can be seen in the case of Jodhey v. State[1] Fighting between members of one group and members of the other cannot be said to have occurred, and the crime of affray cannot be founded.

  • The fighting must take place in a public place-

The fight to be termed as an affray, should have been committed in a public place, where the public comes for one reason or another and should have disrupted the public peace.

  • As a result of the fighting, the public’s harmony must be broken.


The elements of riots are different from that of an affray as that is given below-

  • There must be an illegal meeting/unlawful assembly by the members. (Section.141)
  • The perpetrator may have been a part of the criminal meeting (Section 142)
  • The illegal assembly or any of its participants must use force or violence.

Looking at the elements we can make out the other major distinctions between Affray and Riots

  • Number of Parties

Here we can see that for a riot to take place it requires more than 5 people, while for an Affray to take place it only requires two or more people.

  • Place

For a riot to take place, the location/place of the violent act, can be either public or can be private. But for an act to come under the charge of an Affray (section 159 IPC 1860), the place of the violent act, by both the parties, should be a public place. This can be seen through the case of Babu Ram and Anr. vs. Emperor[2], where it was stated that – “Two people assaulted and overwhelmed an individual in a public location. He had no alternative but to protect himself. They were found guilty of the crime because they were battling in a public venue, disrupting the public peace.”

  • Punishment
  1. Affray-

Affray is punishable under Section 160 of the Indian Penal Code that whoever causes an affray shall be punishable with imprisonment of any type for a period not exceeding one month, or with a fine not exceeding one hundred rupees, or both.

  1. Riot

Section 147 describes the punishments for rioting as anyone who is convicted of rioting shall be punishable with imprisonment of any description for a term not exceeding 2 years, fine, or both.


As observed in the above article affray and riots are criminal acts having the same impact on the society (harming public peace and harmony), but both the acts are governed under different provisions of the Indian Penal Code 1860. Further differences like the number of parties, the place of the act and the punishment differ in both the crimes and thus, even though both the acts are similar in character, the provisions to govern such an act are different.

  1. Jodhey v. State (AIR 1952 All. 788 at p. 794)
  2. Babu Ram and Anr. vs. Emperor [(1930) I.L.R. 53. All.229.]


  • Indian Penal Code 1860- Section 159
  • Indian Penal Code 1860- Section 146
  • Indian Penal Code 1860- Section 160
  • Indian Penal Code 1860- Section 147

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