Coronavirus Outbreak: Section 144 in Some Parts of the Country

As some cities impose Sec 144, it’s important to know where

3 min read
Coronavirus Outbreak: Section 144 in Some Parts of the Country

As the coronavirus threat looms over humanity, governments and authorities are trying to explore every possible preventive measure including the imposition of Section 144 to ensure that people practise social distancing and refrain from gathering in large numbers.

As of Thursday morning, 19 March, India has recorded 169 confirmed cases of coronavirus, as the global death toll crosses 8,000.

Meanwhile, some districts across India and cities including Noida, Muzaffarnagar, Davangere, Nagpur and Nashik have imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which prohibits public gatherings.

1. Section 144 Imposed in Nagpur and Nashik

As the number of cases rose in Maharashtra, Section 144 was imposed in Nagpur and Nashik, earlier this week.

"The order shall remain in force till 31 March," Ravindra Kadam, Joint Commissioner of Police, Nagpur had told PTI.

2. Mumbai Police Prohibits Group Tours Under Section 144

On 16 March, Mumbai police prohibited group tours till 31 March under Section 144.

“As a precautionary measure to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus, Mumbai Police has issued an order prohibiting conduct of any kind of tour involving group of people traveling together to a foreign or domestic destination organised by private tour operators or otherwise using powers u/s 144 Cr PC.”
Mumbai Police PRO

The Mumbai Police, however, allowed exceptions in certain situations. It said, "Should anyone, including private tour operators, need to travel under exceptional circumstances, they may do so after seeking permission from the office of the Commissioner of Police, greater Mumbai."

3. Rajasthan Government Imposed Section 144

On Wednesday, the Rajasthan government announced Section 144 in the state to ramp up precautions taken due to the novel coronavirus. The prohibitory orders will remain in effect till 31 March in Rajasthan, India Today reported.

4. Section 144 Imposed in Noida, Muzaffarnagar

After the city reported two fresh cases of Coronavirus on Wednesday, taking the overall number of positive cases to minimum 14, Noida police invoked Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to prohibit mass gatherings till 5 April.

The Additional Commissioner of Police, Law and Order, Ashutosh Dwivedi said:

“In view of the situation, all social, political, cultural, religious, sports-related events and trade programmes, rallies and demonstrations are being banned till 5 April. Any information related to any person infected with coronavirus must not be withheld and health officials or hospitals should be informed immediately. Failure to do so would invite legal action under IPC Sections 188, 269 and 270.”
Ashutosh Dwivedi

On Monday, Authorities imposed section 144 of the CrPC in Uttar Pradesh''s Muzaffarnagar too. According to Additional District Magistrate of Muzaffarnagar, Amit Singh the prohibitory order has been imposed to check the spread of COVID-19.

5. Section 144 imposed in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag

As the state has registered atleast 3 positive cases of coronavirus, the district magistrate of Anantnag, Bashir Ahmad Dar has banned the gathering of five or more people in any public place.

“I, Bashir Ahmad Dar, KAS, District Magistrate Anantnag in the exercise of the powers vested in the under section 144 of CrPC do hereby impose restriction/ban over the assembly/gathering of more than five persons at any public place of entire Anantnag district which includes all towns and villages with immediate effect for a period of one month.”
Bashir Ahmad Dar

6. Section 144 Imposed in Davangere District of Karnataka

Prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) have been imposed in Davangere district till 24 March in order to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“The fairs, processions, conventions, conferences, sports and religious events set to take place in Davangere district over the next week from 18 to 24 March are prohibited. We have deemed it necessary to stop the gathering of people in large numbers.”
Davangere district administration

What Is Section 144 and What is the Punishment Under It?

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or CrPC can be used to prevent and address urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger. In the case of a pandemic, such use of the Section could prove beneficial, though it has been misused in the past to clamp down on peaceful protests.

Section 144 of the CrPC can be used to ban protests, prohibit public gatherings, and restrict access to certain areas. These public gatherings can be social or political, they can be trade fairs or rallies, etc.

Section 144 can be imposed for up to two months. However, if the government decides it is still not safe for the public to gather, the prohibitory orders can be extended six months, but only from the date of the issuance of the section in that particular area.

The maximum punishment under the Section 144 is imprisonment, which may extend to six months, or fine, which may extend to one thousand rupees, or both.

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