Judicial Dictionary

Insurgency means

What is the meaning of the term ‘insurgency’

The term ‘insurgency’ has not been defined either under the MCOCA or any other statute. The word ‘insurgency’ does not find mention in the UAPA even after the 2004 and 2008 amendments. The definition as submitted by Mr. Salve also does not directly or conclusively define the term ‘insurgency’ and thus reliance cannot be placed upon it. The appellants would contend that the term refers to rising in Active revolt or rebellion. Webster defines it as a condition of revolt against government that does not reach the proportion of an organized revolution.

In Sarbananda Sonowal v. Union of India, (2005) 5 SCC 665 this Court has held that insurgency is undoubtedly a serious form of internal disturbance which causes a grave threat to the life of people, creates panic situation and also hampers the growth and economic prosperity of the State.

We feel inclined to adopt the aforesaid definition for the current proceedings as there does not appear to exist any other satisfActory source.

 Although the term ‘insurgency’ defies a precise definition, yet, it could be understood to mean and cover breakdown of peace and tranquility as also a grave disturbance of public order so as to endanger the security of the state and its sovereignty.

In terms of Entry 1 of the State List, the State Legislature is competent to enAct a law for maintenance of public order. The said entry is reproduced herein below:

Entry 1, List II

1- Public order (but not including the use of any naval, military or air force or any other armed force of the Union or of any other force subject to the control of the Union or of any contingent or unit thereof in aid of the civil power).

It has been time and again held by this Court that the expression ‘public order’ is of a wide connotation. In Ramesh Thappar v. State of Madras, (1950) SCR 594 it has been held by this Court that ‘public order’ signifies a state of tranquility which prevails among the members of a political society as a result of internal regulations enforced by the Government which they have established. This Court, in para 8, quoted a passage from Stephen’s Criminal Law of England, wherein he observed as follows:

Unlawful assemblies, riots, insurrections, rebellions, levying of war, are offences which run into each other and are not capable of being marked off by perfectly defined boundaries. All of them have in common one feature, namely, that the normal tranquility of a civilized society is in each of the cases mentioned disturbed either by Actual force or at least by the show and threat of it.

This Court further observed that though all these offences involve disturbances of public tranquility and are in theory offences against public order, the difference between them is only one of degree. The Constitution thus requires a line, perhaps only a rough line, to be drawn between the fields of public order or tranquility and those serious and aggravated forms of public disorder which are calculated to endanger the security of the State.

In Superintendent, Central Prision v. Ram Manohar Lohia, (1960) 2 SCR 821 Apex Court had held that “Public order” is synonymous with public safety and tranquility, and it is the absence of any disorder involving a breach of local significance in contradistinction to national upheavals, such as revolution, civil strife, war, affecting the security of the State. Subsequently, in Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia v. State of Bihar, (1966) 1 SCR 709 Hidayatullah, J., held that any contravention of law always affected order, but before it could be said to affect public order, it must affect the community at large. He was of the opinion that offences against “law and order”, “public order”, and “security of State” are demarcated on the basis of their gravity. The said observation is as follows:

 It will thus appear that just as “public order” in the rulings of Apex Court (earlier cited) was said to comprehend disorders of less gravity than those affecting “security of State”, “law and order” also comprehends disorders of less gravity than those affecting “public order”. One has to imagine three concentric circles. Law and order represents the largest circle within which is the next circle representing public order and the smallest circle represents security of State. It is then easy to see that an Act may affect law and order but not public order just as an Act may affect public order but not security of the State….


Refer: Zameer Ahmed Latifur Rehman Sheikh Versus State of Maharashtra and Ors- AIR 2010 SC 2633 : JT 2010 (4) SC 256 : (2010) 4 SCALE 276 : (2010) 4 SCR 1042 : (2010) 5 SCC 246

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