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Article 116 – Riot or Breach of Peace

Under the punitive Article 116 of the UCMJ, any service member who incites a riot or disrupts the peace in the area shall be punished as deemed fit by the military court. The situations covered by the Article are explained below.

  • Riot

When an individual causes, or participates in, a riot at an alleged place and at an alleged time, by unlawfully assembling with the alleged number of persons whose names are unknown, to resist the police of the said region/jurisdiction, assaulting passersby and bystanders in the process, and also fights the police and assaults certain people for furtherance of the alleged purpose, causing disturbance and terror in the said region, he or she is subject to punishment under the Article 116 Riot.

The elements of crime covered under the Article 116 Riot are as follows.

  1. The accused individual was actually a part of a group of three or more persons present at the alleged place and time.
  2. The accused and the other members of the said group had mutually intended to cooperate with and assist each other in acting against anyone opposing their actions, for some alleged personal purposes.
  3. The entire group or some members of the group which the accused was a part of, had unlawfully disturbed the peace through acts of violence
  4. The acts of the group were intended or designed to cause alarm and create terror among the public, and had actually terrorized the general public.

It is important to note that the offense is considered punishable only when the riot actually creates terror. Therefore, a brief disruption of peace, even if it was violent, will not be considered as a riot if it has not terrorized the public in general. The element of "mutual intent", between the accused and at least two other members of the group to assist each other, as part of their common plan, for fighting anyone who opposes them, should also be proved.

The word "public" as stated above includes military bases, organizations, camps, posts, stations, ships or aircrafts.

Maximum Punishment: The accused faces confinement of no more than 10 years when subject to maximum punishment under Article 116 Riot.

  • Breach of the Peace

When any person causes or is a participant in breach of the peace through a) wrongful engagement in a fist fight by provocation, using profanity or use of indecent language toward the specified person/persons at an alleged place and time b) singing or shouting in a public space shall be punished as deemed fit by the court.

The following elements are covered under this punitive article.

  1. The accused caused or participated in turbulent or violent acts at the alleged place and at the alleged time
  2. The peace of the place was unlawfully disrupted by the alleged acts of the accused

Any unlawful disturbance of peace caused due to observable, violent acts of the accused is considered as breach of peace. The situation involves in violent or turbulent acts that severely upset the peace and the good form that the community is entitled to. For instance, loud speeches and use of provocative language by the accused constitute a breach of peace.

The term "community" here refers to any military organization, camp, base, station, ship or aircraft.

Note - It is important to note that even if the provocative or indecent words allegedly spoken are facts are used under provocation cannot be a defense to charges under Article 116. Similarly, violent or turbulent behavior, even if it is incited by another person's speech or behavior, by an individual will attract the charges of breach of the peace.

Maximum punishment - The accused shall be given no more than 6 months of confinement as maximum punishment, when proved guilty of breach of the peace. For more information on this article, please refer to the Manual for Courts Martial.

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