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Section 144 of CrPC

  • 20 Dec 2019
  • 3 min read

Why in news

With protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act intensifying at several places across many states, several state governments have imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to curb the protests.

What is Section 144 of CrPC?

  • Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is frequently used to prohibit assemblies of four or more individuals, or to order mobile phone companies to block voice, SMS, or Internet communications in one or more geographical areas.
  • It empowers a district magistrate, a sub-divisional magistrate or any other executive magistrate specially empowered by the state government in this behalf to issue orders to prevent and address urgent cases of apprehended danger or nuisance.
    • The orders may be directed against a particular individual, or to persons residing in a particular place or area, or to the public generally when frequenting or visiting a particular place or area.
  • No order passed under Section 144 can remain in force for more than two months from the date of the order.
  • The state government can extend this, but not more than six months.

Issues related to Section 144

  • The term cases of apprehended danger or nuisance are too broad and wide enough to give absolute power to a magistrate.
  • The immediate remedy against such an order is a revision application to the magistrate himself.
  • An aggrieved individual can approach the High Court by filing a writ petition (article 226) if his fundamental rights are at stake. This however is a time taking process.

How have courts ruled on Section 144?

  • Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya case 1967, the Supreme Court held that “no democracy can exist if ‘public order’ is freely allowed to be disturbed by a section of the citizens”.
  • Madhu Limaye vs Sub-Divisional Magistrate case 1970, a seven-judge bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India M Hidayatullah upheld the constitutionality of section 144.
    • The court said that “law may be abused” is no reason to strike it down.
    • It further ruled that the restrictions imposed through Section 144 cannot be held to be violative of the right to freedom of speech and expression.
    • Imposition of Section 144 falls under the “reasonable restrictions” under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • In 2012, the Supreme Court criticised the government for imposing Section 144 against a sleeping crowd in Ramlila Maidan.
    • The court held that such a provision can be used only in grave circumstances for maintenance of public peace. The emergency must be sudden and the consequences sufficiently grave.

Source: IE

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