Section 159 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 – Explained!

Legal Provisions of Section 159 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.


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This section defines the crime of ‘affray’. It says that when two or more persons disturb public peace by fighting in a public place, they commit the crime of affray. The word ‘affray’ has been derived from the French word ‘affraier’ which means to terrify. Therefore, in the legal sense the act of terrorising the people is the offence of affray. Since the people can be terrorised only when something is done in front of the people themselves, presence of the public becomes necessary. That is why, in the definition of affray, it is necessary that two or more persons must fight in a public place and thereby disturb public peace.

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Two or more persons

There must be at least two persons, which is the minimum requirement of a fight. One person cannot fight alone; he needs someone to fight with. Therefore, the section insists on the requirement of at least two persons.



There has to be a fighting between two or more persons for this section to apply. Though the word ‘fighting’ is a very simple word of almost everyday use, its meaning is not that easy. It means an exchange of blows between two or more persons in which one is trying to gain superiority over other or others. Interpretations of the courts on this aspect have been diverse.

Some of the instances which were held to constitute fighting and have been thus held to be affray are aiming of blows irrespective of the fact whether they fell on the body of the person aimed at or not, defence by one against an attack in which the defender lost to the attackers, and a contest or struggle between two or more persons in which violence is offered or threatened.

On the other hand, the courts held some other acts as not constituting ‘fighting’ and as such not amounting to affray like an attack on some people who tried to escape and not retaliate, two brothers quarrelling and abusing each other but not exchanging blows, and person remaining passive and not retaliating when attacked.

Public place


The courts have interpreted the expression ‘public place’ as including a place where the public go even if they have no legal authority to go there, or where the public is allowed access irrespective of any legal right thereto, or even a place on which there exists for the public a limited right of access.

A railway or a bus station or a platform, a public urinal or toilet, a theatre or a cinema hall, a recreation or amusement park are all public places within the meaning of this section. Where all evidence examined by the court showed a portion of land as a private place, the court refused to convict the fighting groups for the offence of affray.

Disturbance of public peace

According to section 159, disturbance of public peace is an essential condition for the applicability of the section. Mere causing of inconvenience to the public is quite different from causing disturbance to public peace.

Affray and assault

While an affray is always committed on a public place, assault may not be necessarily so. Affray is an offence against public peace, whereas assault is always a personal offence. In affray public peace is necessarily disturbed which is not a requirement for assault.

Affray and riot

Affray requires a minimum of two persons whereas in riot a minimum of five persons are required. Affray can be committed only in a public place whereas riot may be committed anywhere. In affray there is always a disturbance of public peace but in riot the same is not necessary.


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