Section 144 is a ruling that prohibits public gatherings in a given jurisdiction.This constitutional provision empowers the district or any executive magistrate in a state or union territory to impose the said law during anticipated emergencies.Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) is issued in urgent cases of security threat or riot and bars the assembly of five or more people in an area where it has been imposed. The notification is issued by the District Magistrate of the area.
What is Section 144?
Enacted in 1973, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) empowers the magistrate of any union territory or state in India to pass an order which prohibits the gathering of 4 or more than 4 people in a particular area. Section 144 also places restrictions on transporting any kind of weapon.
Section 144 crpc also empowers the authorities to curb internet access in the particular region.
The ultimate purpose of Section 144 is to maintain peace and order in those areas where the existing trouble can disrupt the regular life.
Provisions under Section 144
Section 144 restricts the public gathering in a given jurisdiction. This constitutional provision
grants the powers to the district or an executive magistrate in a state or union territory to impose this law during anticipated emergencies. In case of any violation in this regard, people can be detained upto three years.
As per the order issued under this section, the movement of public is restricted. All the educational institutions in the given area remain closed. Holding any public meeting or conducting rallies in the area are also banned during the period when section 144 is in force.
Areas where Section 144 is applied, it is deemed as a punishable offence to obstruct law enforcement agencies from disbanding an unlawful assembly. In case of any immediate action, Sec 144 also allows the authorities to curb internet access in the region.
Scope of Section 144 IPC
- Under section 144 IPC, the restriction could be imposed in a specific locality or in the entire town.
- Section 144 IPC restricts movement, carrying arms, lathis, sharp - edged metallic objects or firearms in public places.
- The magistrate can direct any person to refrain from a certain act or take a certain order with respect to certain property under his management.
- There is a complete bar on organizing any kind of rallies or public meetings during the period of Section 144 IPC.
- Spreading rumors and blocking roads are strictly not allowed.
When is Section 144 imposed?
Section 144 CrPC is imposed when there is a threat or damage to the human life or property. The Sec 144 ensures maintenance of peace and tranquility in an area. In the past, section 144 has been used to impose restrictions that can lead to unrest.
Duration of Section 144 order
According to the rules mentioned under the implementation of Section 144 in a given jurisdiction, no order can be stretched for a period of more than 2 months. Under the state government’s discretion, the validity can be extended for two more months with the maximum validity extendable to six months. Once the situation gets normal, Section 144 levied can be withdrawn.
What is curfew?
Curfew takes place when the power is with the collector and police commissioner. In addition to section 144, all the important services are shut down except grocery stores, vegetables, hospitals, banks, ATMs and milk shops.
Difference between curfew and section 144
Section 144 is prohibitory in nature that restricts people from public gathering. But, it doesn’t restrict gathering all together. Whereas, a curfew forces people to stay indoors for a certain period of time and the element of times remains crucial. The government puts a complete restriction on the traffic as well. Schools, markets, colleges and offices remain closed under the curfew and only essential services hospitals - banks, ATMs, grocery stores, vegetables and milk shops are allowed to run on a prior notice.
Past instances of Section 144:
1. Bulandshaher Violence incident, December 2018
With the outbreak of Bulandshaher violence incident leading to a death of a police inspector, the Gautam Buddh Nagar and the Ghaziabad districts had imposed Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code.
2. Protests against CAA and NRC, December 2019 in several states
Starting from 6am until midnight on December21, Karnataka Government had imposed Sec 144 CrPC in Karnataka for three days. During CAA and NRC protests, Section 144 had also prohibited the assembly of five or more people, carrying of firearms and holding public meetings.
3. Ayodhya verdict, November 2019
Due to the expected verdict in the Ayodhya case, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was imposed in Bhopal, capital city of Madhya Pradesh. Being a sensitive district, Collector Tarun Pithode has issued an order to implement Section 144 in Bhopal for the two months. During this time, strong security arrangements were made at sensitive places.
4. Preventive measure against COVID - 19, September 2020
As the spread of coronavirus disease continued to increase, Government of various states like Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Rajasthan had issued order under Section 144 CrPC or Criminal Procedure Code. It was invoked to stop people from gathering at a place, so that the check can be maintained during the spread of the disease.
Q1. What is section 144?
Section 144 means prohibiting public gathering which can bring trouble to human lives or property. Implementing Section 144 becomes the need of an hour when there is a chance of eruption of some riots or protests leading to unrest.
Q2. Why section 144 is necessitated?
Section 144 is necessitated to maintain peace in a certain area. It is imposed in urgent case of apprehended danger or nuisance of some event that can cause harm to public, property or infrastructure.
Q3. Who has the power to impose section 144?
Section 144 CrPc, 1973 gives power to a sub - divisional magistrate, district magistrate or any executive magistrate on behalf of the State Government to issue an order towards the general public or an individual in a particular place.
Q4. How long section 144 can remain in force?
The state Government has the power to extend the validity of two months to 6 months if it seems really urgent.
Q5Do telecommunication and internet services be withdrawn under Section 144?
Yes, Section 144 includes the suspension of internet services in various cities. The telecommunication services can also be blocked which include SMS, landline, voice, mobile internet and fixed broadband.
Section 144 might seem arbitrary in nature, but it plays an eminent role to sustain peace and harmony in the country.
Q6. What is not allowed under Section 144?
There is a total bar on holding rallies, public meetings and restrictions on public movement. Carrying different kinds of lathis, weapons and sharp edged metallic objects are also restricted in public.