SECTION 144 CrPC

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on telegram
Share on whatsapp

Section 144 CrPC (Dhara 144)

Ground to impose restrictions under section 144 CrPC

With massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act intensifying at several places across many states, the state governments have imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) restricting the protesters from gathering against or in favour of the controversial law passed by Parliament.The situation sees Section 144 being a popular matter of discussion now.

What is section 144 CrPC?

  • Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 authorises the district magistrate, a sub-divisional magistrate or any other executive magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of five or more people in an area.
  • Section 144 is imposed in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger of some event that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property.
  • Section 144 of CrPC generally prohibits public gathering. According to the law, every member of such ‘unlawful assembly’ can be booked for engaging in rioting.
  • The maximum punishment for such an act is of three years. Also, it is mentioned that obstructing police from breaking up an unlawful assembly is a punishable offence. This section also empowers the authorities to block the internet access.

What is an ‘Unlawful assembly’?

  • Article 19 (1) (b) of the Constitution confers the fundamental right to assemble peacefully and without arms. However, section 141 of the IPC aims to criminalize unlawful assembly.
  • Unlawful assembly’ describes a group of people who gather allegedly to ‘deliberately’ disturb peace. If the group is just about to begin its disturbance, it is called a ‘rout’. But if it sets off unrest, it starts a ‘riot’.
  • An unlawful assembly as per section 141 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) means an assembly of 5 or more persons if the common object of the assembly is-
  • To overawe by using criminal force or show criminal force, to Central or any State Government or Parliament or any State Legislature or any public servant; or
  • To oppose the performance of any law or legal process; or
  • To carry out any mischief or criminal trespass or any other offence; or
  • By use of criminal force takes possession of any property or deprives any person of the right to the way or the use of water or any incorporeal right; or
  • With the use or show of criminal force compels any person to do any illegal act.

Powers of the administration

  • The magistrate can direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to take a certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management. 
  • This includes restrictions on movement, carrying arms and from assembling unlawfully. It is generally believed that assembly of five or more people is prohibited under section 144.
  • However, it can be used to restrict even a single individual. Such an order is passed when the magistrate considers that it is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquillity, or a riot, of an affray.

Provisions of Section 144

  • Section 144 also places restrictions on handling or transporting any kind of weapon in the given jurisdictionwhere Section 144 has been imposed.
  • In case of any violation in this regard, people doing it in any form can be detained. Such acts can invite a punishment of three years.
  • As per the order issued under this section, there cannot beany movement of the public.All educational institutions in the given area will have to remain closed.
  • Holding any public meeting or conducting rallies in the area are banned during the period when Section 144 is in force.
  • In the areas where Section 144 is in force it is deemed a punishable offence to obstruct lawenforcement agencies from disbanding an unlawful assembly.
  • The ultimate purpose of Section 144 is to maintain peace andorder in the areas where trouble could erupt todisrupt the regular life.

Duration of Section 144 order

  • As per the rules specified for the implementation of Section 144 in a given jurisdiction, no order can remain in force for a period of more than 2 months.
  • Under the state government’s discretion, it can choose to extend the validity for two more monthswith the maximum validity extendable to six months.
  • Once the situation becomes normal, Section 144 levied can be withdrawn.

Constitutional Validity of section 144CrPC

  • The government has clarified that Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh are Islamic country where Muslims are in majority hence they cannot be treated as persecuted minorities.
  • This Act will come as a big boon to all those people who have been the victims of Partition and the subsequent conversion of the three countries into theocratic Islamic republics.
  • The government has argued that millions of citizens of undivided India belonging to various faiths were staying in Pakistan and Bangladesh from 1947.
  • The constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh provide for a specific state religion. As a result, many persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities have faced persecution on grounds of religion in those countries.
  • Many such persons have fled to India to seek shelter and continued to stay in India even if their travel documents have expired or they have incomplete or no documents.

Difference between section 144 CrPC and curfew

  • A curfew is when a law orders people to stay indoors for a specific period of time. It prohibits any person to move out without approval from authorities.
  • Curfew is imposed for only a specific amount of time and in a particular area. The educational institutions, markets and shops remain shut and very selected services are allowed to function.
  • Section 144 bars mob gatherings but it does not control it all. A curfew is a larger action taken to control the grave situation. In a curfew, you need permissions to move about.
  • The element of time is very important in these restrictory orders. So an imposition of Section 144 and curfew is not the same, though at many times people use the terms interchangeably.

Criticism of sec 144 CrPC

  • A curfew is when a law orders people to stay indoors for a specific period of time. It prohibits any person to move out without approval from authorities.
  • Curfew is imposed for only a specific amount of time and in a particular area. The educational institutions, markets and shops remain shut and very selected services are allowed to function.
  • Section 144 bars mob gatherings but it does not control it all. A curfew is a larger action taken to control the grave situation. In a curfew, you need permissions to move about.
  • The element of time is very important in these restrictory orders. So an imposition of Section 144 and curfew is not the same, though at many times people use the terms interchangeably.

Conclusion

  • The increasing cases of riots and other incidents ruining public peace and tranquillity has made it mandatory for the Magistrates to have such powers so as to secure the common people the safety and peace which is essential for their living.The government should make sure that there is no blanket imposition.Existing checks and balances and judicial oversight are insufficient. Therefore, a thorough review is necessary.Public order and right to peaceful dissent– both should be ensured.