Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was recently widely invoked by police forces across the country in order to contain the public protests against the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act.
So what the section 144 is all about?
Basically, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 authorizes the Executive Magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area. According to the law, every member of such 'unlawful assembly' can be booked for engaging in rioting. Unlawful assembly is a legal term to describe a group of people with the mutual intent of deliberate disturbance of the peace. If the group is about to start the act of disturbance, it is termed a rout; if the disturbance is commenced, it is then termed a riot.
Section 144 gives power to a District Magistrate, a sub-divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate on behalf of the State Government to issue an order to an individual or the general public in a particular place or area to “abstain from a certain act” or “to take certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management”.
Section 144 also empowers the authorities to block internet access.
As per the Section, the order can be passed only "if such Magistrate considers", that the direction is likely to prevent :
obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed.
danger to human life, health or safety.
disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot or affray.
Duration Of Section 144 Order
No order under Section 144 shall remain in force for more than two months but the state government can extend the validity for two months and maximum up to six months. It can be withdrawn at any point in time if the situation becomes normal.
Constitutional Validity Of Section 144
Hidayutallah, Former Chief Justice of India, stated in the celebrated case of Madhu Likaye v S.D.M. Monghyr, that section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code is not unconstitutional if properly applied and the fact that it may be abused is no ground for it's being struck down. And the provisions of the Code properly understood are not in excess of the limits laid down in the Constitution for restricting the freedom guaranteed in it and that is precisely why the Court held that section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code is valid and Constitutional.
Contents Of Section 144 Order
Order must be in writing
Order must be specific and definite in terms
'Material Facts' must be stated in the order
Prohibition must be clearly stated
Difference between Curfew and Section 144
Section 144 prohibits the assembly of five or more people in an area. There is also a restriction on carrying any sort of weapon in that area. According to the law, every member of such an "unlawful assembly" can be booked for "engaging in rioting". The maximum punishment for such an act is three years.
On the other hand, Curfew orders are subject to worse deterioration in any location or city. People have to stay in the house for a specific time or period. It is believed that it can be very helpful in handling any kind of violent situation. The orders of curfew can be for a specific group or for the general public.
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