Living in India, you must have experienced Sec 144 of CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code), 1973 being imposed on you or on anyone you know. Sec 144 of CrPC has been the talk of the town whenever something concerning or threatening to the peace of any area takes place. Basically Sec 144 of CrPC comes into play whenever there is some urgent case of nuisance of apprehended danger.
The history of this legislation dates backs to 1861, when Officer Raj- Ratna E.F. Deboo, IPS drafted the law in order to curb crime in the state of Baroda. The law was a great success and helped in reducing the overall crime rate in the state. Ever since the law has been in place, it has prevented major mishaps.
The section 144 of CrPC empowers Executive Manager in place of Government of any region in India whether a state or union territory to prevent four or more people from gathering whatever the occasion maybe, even though it has a much wider area of action. Those who try to unlawfully gather are stated to be a part of an ‘unlawful assembly’ (defined under Sec 141 of IPC) and can be booked for causing roit. The restrictions placed by the section may range from light to severe range. It can include restrictions like complete obstruction of any movement, closure of educational institution including school and higher educational institutions and governmental offices, complete ban on any public meeting or rally, or may even to an extent of blocking internet service in that area. Although the restriction under this law may be in place for minimum of two months but can be extended upto to six months. Anyone who goes against the prescribed restrictions can be booked and sentenced for three years and/ or fines as prescribed under Sec 141- 149 of IPC.
SEC 141- 149 OF INDIAN PENAL CODE
Sec 141: it defines the term ‘Unlawful Assembly’ as an association of four or more person who may try to show criminal force, resist the peaceful execution of any legislation, commit mischief, obstruct in enjoyment of right of other person or compel any person to perform an immoral act.
Sec 142: a person even after having knowledge of unlawful assembly, intentionally participates in our, is deemed to be a part of the unlawful assembly.
Sec 143: a participant of an unlawful assembly may be sentenced to six months prison or fined or both, if needed.
Sec 144: a member of unlawful assembly in possession of a deadly weapon, which may cause harm or death can be sentenced up to two years or fined or both.
Sec 145: a person even after knowing that a particular unlawful assembly is ordered to disperse, joins it, can be sentenced up to two years or fined or both.
Sec 146: whenever any kind of force or violence is used by any unlawful assembly, thereof every member of that assembly is convicted of rioting.
Sec 147: whosoever is convicted with the crime of rioting can be sentenced up to two years or fined or both.
Sec 148: whosoever is convicted with the crime of rioting and was in possession of any deadly arms, likely to cause harm or death, can be sentenced up to three years or fined or both.
Sec 149: if any offence is committed by any member of the unlawful assembly with a common aim or the other members had prior knowledge of happening of any such crime, at the time of happening of such crime every member of unlawful assembly is guilty of that offence.
GROUNDS FOR APPLICATION UNDER SEC 144, CRPC
Obstruction: the magistrate has the responsibility to ensure that the use of the law is only to prevent any unwanted intervention or obstruction in the peaceful implementation of any public order or government order. The law should only used to avoid any hindrance in such activities of public welfare.
Annoyance: any order under this law should only be passed, if there is a possibility of happening of such an event that may disturb the peace and endanger the law and security of an area and is likely to give birth to hatred and violence in the society.
Injury to a lawfully employed person: one of the requirement of this ground is the use of violence against a person who is lawfully employed and performing his/ her duty. The range of injury whether normal or severe doesn’t have a significance. Just the fact that injury to such a person is deemed to be a threat to law and order and can be used as a ground for filing an application.
Danger to human life, health and security: the urgency of situation may be such that imposition of the law may become necessary and not doing so may put grave danger to human life and may cause a disaster.
Disturbance to public tranquility: the disturbance to public tranquility may refer to such a situation where any offensive activity and disturb the normal public peace and order that prevails in the society. If the magistrate if happening of such an event, the law may be used and the public peace, order and tranquility may be protected. Imposition of Sec 144 during anti- CAA protests is a great example of such a situation.
Riot: it refers to such a situation where public unrest may take place and can cause sudden uprising. If the sudden change of situation becomes a threat to the peace of the society, the magistrate may use Sec 144. Imposition of the sec 144 before the Ayodhya verdict in 2019 is an example of usage the usage of the section is prevention of possible riots.
Section 144 has been imposed for many years now to address the problem of the possibility of riots and violence and it has proven to be an efficient tool to deal with emergencies. However, the absence of any narrow tailoring of wide executive powers with specific objectives, coupled with very limited judicial oversight over the executive branch, makes it ripe for abuse and misuse. The narrowing down of the executive powers and providing for accountability for the administrations’ actions are vital for the securing of the democracy.
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