What is Section 144 and Why Are Many Slamming Govt For Imposing It

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC have been imposed in the whole state of UP and some parts of Delhi.

Updated19 Dec 2019, 01:18 PM IST
India
3 min read
Snapshot

In order to prevent protests against the controversial Citizenship law, the Karnataka government on Wednesday, 19 December imposed Section 144 of the CrPC in the state, including in Bengaluru, for three days. On Thursday morning, prohibitory orders were then imposed in the entire state of Uttar Pradesh and in parts of the national capital where protests were planned.

As the promulgation of Section 144 itself is now being deemed ‘illegal’ and ‘abuse of power’, let’s try and decode what it says.

What is Section 144 and Why Are Many Slamming Govt For Imposing It

  1. 1. What is Section 144 and Who Imposes 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.

    It can be used to direct people to abstain from a certain act, if the District Magistrate considers that this is needed to prevent:

    · obstruction to anyone lawfully employed,

    · or a danger to human life or health or safety,

    · or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, or an affray.

    These prohibitory orders need to be passed in writing, and need to state the material facts of the case at hand. Contrary to what many people think, a Section 144 CrPC order can be imposed even against a single person.

    Section 144 of the CrPC can be used to ban protests, prohibit public gatherings, and restrict access to certain areas.

    The public perception that it applies to assembly of more than five persons has come to be because the order usually refers to prohibition of an “unlawful assembly”, which is defined under Section 141 of the IPC.

    Section 141 of the IPC define an assembly of five or more persons as unlawful if "the common object of the persons composing that assembly is":

    • To overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force, 1[the Central or any State Government or Parliament or the Legis­lature of any State], or any public servant in the exercise of the lawful power of such public servant; orTo resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process; or
    • To commit any mischief or criminal trespass, or other offence; or
    • By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to any person, to take or obtain possession of any property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of a right of way, or of the use of water or other incorporeal right of which he is in possession or enjoyment, or to enforce any right or supposed right; or
    • By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to compel any person to do what he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do.
    Expand
  2. 2. When is Section 144 Imposed and How Long Can It Be Imposed?

    At the time of breach of public peace, Section 144 of the CrPC is imposed in that particular area.

    Section 144 can be imposed for up to two months. However, if the government feels that it is not safe for the civilians or at the time of major riots, the prohibitory orders can be extended till six months only from the date of the issuance of the section in that particular area.

    Those violating Section 144 of CrPC can be punished as defined under Section 188 of the IPC which deals with "disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant".

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

    Section 144 of the CrPC is not the same as curfew, however. In a situation of a curfew, the threat to public peace is more severe. During this time, people are ordered to stay indoors for a certain time period. All the schools, offices, and markets are typically shut down till the curfew is imposed. Only important services are open under the notice of the government.

    Expand
  3. 3. Why Are Many Calling It ‘Violation of Rights’?

    Many on Twitter have been quick to point out that Section 144 has been wrongfully promulgated and is “a gross violation of citizens' fundamental right to protest”. Typically, the prohibitory orders are put in place upon an imminent threat or fear of violence in a particular area. However, the orders in Bengaluru, parts of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh were passed to prohibit demonstrators from carrying out protests.

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    Expand

What is Section 144 and Who Imposes 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.

It can be used to direct people to abstain from a certain act, if the District Magistrate considers that this is needed to prevent:

· obstruction to anyone lawfully employed,

· or a danger to human life or health or safety,

· or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, or an affray.

These prohibitory orders need to be passed in writing, and need to state the material facts of the case at hand. Contrary to what many people think, a Section 144 CrPC order can be imposed even against a single person.

Section 144 of the CrPC can be used to ban protests, prohibit public gatherings, and restrict access to certain areas.

The public perception that it applies to assembly of more than five persons has come to be because the order usually refers to prohibition of an “unlawful assembly”, which is defined under Section 141 of the IPC.

Section 141 of the IPC define an assembly of five or more persons as unlawful if "the common object of the persons composing that assembly is":

  • To overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force, 1[the Central or any State Government or Parliament or the Legis­lature of any State], or any public servant in the exercise of the lawful power of such public servant; orTo resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process; or
  • To commit any mischief or criminal trespass, or other offence; or
  • By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to any person, to take or obtain possession of any property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of a right of way, or of the use of water or other incorporeal right of which he is in possession or enjoyment, or to enforce any right or supposed right; or
  • By means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to compel any person to do what he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do.

When is Section 144 Imposed and How Long Can It Be Imposed?

At the time of breach of public peace, Section 144 of the CrPC is imposed in that particular area.

Section 144 can be imposed for up to two months. However, if the government feels that it is not safe for the civilians or at the time of major riots, the prohibitory orders can be extended till six months only from the date of the issuance of the section in that particular area.

Those violating Section 144 of CrPC can be punished as defined under Section 188 of the IPC which deals with "disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant".

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

Section 144 of the CrPC is not the same as curfew, however. In a situation of a curfew, the threat to public peace is more severe. During this time, people are ordered to stay indoors for a certain time period. All the schools, offices, and markets are typically shut down till the curfew is imposed. Only important services are open under the notice of the government.

Why Are Many Calling It ‘Violation of Rights’?

Many on Twitter have been quick to point out that Section 144 has been wrongfully promulgated and is “a gross violation of citizens' fundamental right to protest”. Typically, the prohibitory orders are put in place upon an imminent threat or fear of violence in a particular area. However, the orders in Bengaluru, parts of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh were passed to prohibit demonstrators from carrying out protests.

Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

Published: 19 Dec 2019, 10:07 AM IST
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