Explained:How Section 144 CrPC works

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News:Recently,state governments have issued prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure(CrPC),1973 after the protests started against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

Facts:

About Section 144:

  • 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.
  • It is imposed in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger of some event that has the potential to cause trouble or damage to human life or property.

Powers under Section 144:

  • The magistrate can direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to take a certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management. 
  • The Section also restricts carrying any sort of weapon in that area where it has been imposed and people can be detained for violating it.The maximum punishment for such an act is three years.
  • Moreover,obstructing law enforcement agencies from dispersing an unlawful assembly is a punishable offence.Section 144 also empowers the authorities to block the internet access.
  • However, this section can also be used to restrict even a single individual.Such an order is passed when the magistrate considers that it is likely to prevent obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person among others.

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 a maximum of up to six months.
  • However,it can be withdrawn at any point of time if the situation becomes normal.

Court on Section 144:

  • In Ram Manohar Lohia case in 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.
  • In Madhu Limaye vs Sub-Divisional Magistrate case 1970,the court had said that law may be abused.But it is not a  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. The 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.