This section is a general provision applicable to all and is not limited to liability of public servants only as is the case with sections 128 and 129 of the Code. The use of the word ‘knowingly’ shows that the ‘mens rea’ for the offence under this section is the knowledge on the part of the accused that the person for whose interest or benefit he is acting is a state prisoner or prisoner of war. If the prosecution fails to prove such knowledge on the part of the accused, his conviction cannot be maintained.
The section says that whoever aids or assists any state prisoner or prisoner of war in escaping from lawful custody with the knowledge that the person he is helping is a state prisoner or prisoner of war, or rescues or attempts to rescue any such prisoner with such knowledge, or harbours or conceals any such prisoner who has escaped from lawful custody with such knowledge, or offers or attempts to offer any resistance to the recapture of such prisoner with such knowledge, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with simple or rigorous imprisonment extending up to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
According to the explanation attached to the section a state prisoner or prisoner of war who has been released on parole with the condition that he will have free movement within specified limits in India will be presumed to have escaped from lawful custody if he goes beyond the limits within which he has been allowed movement.
The provision has a very wide ambit in the sense that knowingly aiding or assisting, or rescuing or attempting to rescue, or harbouring or concealing, or offering or attempting to offer resistance have all been made an offence under this section.
The offence under this section is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by court of session.