Related Topic in KAS Prelims Syllabus:
Governance [Paper-I]: Public Policy and Governance
Several state governments have imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) restricting the protesters from gathering against Citizenship Amendment Act passed by Parliament.
What is Section 144?
- Section 144 CrPC 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 magistrate has to pass a written order which 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.
- In emergency cases, the magistrate can pass these orders without prior notice to the individual against whom the order is directed.
- This law empowers the magistrate of any state or union territory in India to pass an order prohibiting the gathering of four or more people.
- The various provisions of Section 144 makes it possible to book all the members of such gathering termed as ‘unlawful assembly’ under the charges of having engaged in rioting.
- 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 for a maximum period of six months.
- It places restrictions on handling or transporting any kind of weapon in the given jurisdiction where 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.
- 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 law enforcement agencies from disbanding an unlawful assembly.
- It also empowers the authorities to stop internet access in the region.
Why Section 144 is necessitated?
- The administration is empowered under Section 144 to impose restrictions on the personal liberties of individuals.
- This means the fundamental right of peaceful assembly provided under Article 19 of the Constitution is curtailed by the administration if the executive magistrate finds the situation at any specified place presenting a potential to disturbance in law and order.
- The defining aspect of imposing such a restriction is assessment of the situation by the district administration that it has the potential to cause unrest or danger to peace and tranquility in such an area due to certain disputes.
- Prevention of a crime or riot is the duty of the administration. Power conferred under Section 144 is absolute in terms of maintaining law and order.
Why is Section 144 criticized?
- Human Rights Activists argue that Section 144 is too broad and the words of the section are wide enough to give absolute power to a magistrate that may be exercised unjustifiably.
- 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 if his fundamental rights are at stake.
- However, fears exist that before the High Court intervenes, the rights could already have been infringed.
[Source: Business Insider, India Today]