This section deals with the liability of an owner or occupier of land on which an unlawful assembly is held or on which a riot takes place. It says that the owner or occupier of a land upon which a riot is committed, and any person who has or who claims to have an interest in such land, shall be punishable with fine up to one thousand rupees, if he or his agent or manager, has knowledge that either such offence is being committed or has been committed, or has reason to believe that it is likely to be committed, and does not notify at the earliest opportunity thereof in his or their power to the principal officer at the nearest police station, and in case of his or their knowledge that the offence is likely to be committed, use all lawful means to prevent the same, and in the event of its happening, do not use all lawful means to disperse or suppress the riot or the unlawful assembly.
The three important aspects about this offence which must be kept in mind are an omission to give notice of an unlawful assembly or a riot, abstention from preventing it and negligence in dispersing or suppressing it. The expression ‘any person having or claiming an interest in such land’ has been held to apply to tenants, mortgagees, and reversioners.
There is a certain similarity between sections 154, 155 and 156, and they should, therefore, be read together. This section illustrates the point that sometimes the law gives certain duties of the police to landholders. It is interesting to note that the section prescribes only fine as penalty, and the quantum of the same is not much by today’s standards. The provision is a principle of vicarious liability.
Where a sub-inspector of police sent a warning notice to a landholder regarding an apprehension of a breach of peace on a disputed land in his possession and advised him not to enjoy the land in question, the Karnataka High Court held that it was virtually an injunction issued by the sub-inspector on whom the law had not bestowed any such power and consequently, this section not having authorised the sub-inspector to do so, the order deserved to be quashed.
The offence under this section is non-cognizable, bailable and non-compoundable, and is triable by metropolitan magistrate or magistrate of the first or second class.