- Recently, A report titled ‘The Use and Misuse of Section 144 CrPC’ was released in presence of Former CJI U.U Lalit.
- Section 144 is a colonial era law with the aim of preventing obstruction, annoyance to the general public and to maintain peace and tranquillity in the area.
- It gives power to a district magistrate or any other executive magistrate empowered by the state government to issue orders so as to prevent any untoward incident related to law and order situation.
- The order can be used on certain individuals in a given area or the general public .
- This Report compiled by four lawyers based on Right to Information responses offers a ground-level analysis of how Section 144 is being used in Delhi, over a duration of one year
- The Report states that prohibitory orders were issued over 6,100 times in the national capital in 2021.
- After examining nearly 5,400 orders issued for the enforcement of Section 144 in the city. The report found cases where Section 144 was used to regulate the sale of balms or cough syrups, which are often used as drugs.
- The report also found section 144 being used for snooping.it found that 25.6% of the total number of orders issued by the police were CCTV installation orders .
- It found that 43% of the total number of section 144 orders were pertaining to regulating businesses through record and registration requirements.
- The report concludes that implementation of Section 144 orders leaves much to be desired. It opines that Section 144,CrPC instead of being used as an exceptional measure,has become a part of the regular legal framework such that they are periodically re-issued at the expiry of two months.
Powers under Section 144:
- It empowers the executive magistrate to issue an order prohibiting the assembly of four or more people in an area. Members of such unlawful assembly can be booked for engaging in rioting.
- Under the section, the magistrate can direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to pass an order with respect to a certain property in the possession or under the management of that person to maintain peace.
- It can restrict the movement of persons, ability to carry arms and unlawful assembly.
- It also gives power to the authorities to block internet access.
- Moreover, obstructing law enforcement agencies from dispersing an unlawful assembly is a punishable offence.
Issues with the Section 144 :
- The provisions of the section are extensive and gives the magistrate unjustified power.
- The immediate relief against the order is the revision application which needs to be submitted to the same officer who imposed section 144. This is against the ‘Principle of Natural justice’.
- It infringes upon the fundamental rights of the citizens (Article 19, 21).
- It usage has become exceeded its permit and is being used for mundane/common matters
SC Judgements :
- In Babulal Parate vs State of Maharashtra Case, the apex court refused to strike down the law.
- In Dr Ram Manohar Lohia case, 1967, apex court stated that ‘no democracy can exist if public order is freely allowed to be disturbed by a section of the citizens’ thus refusing to pull down the section.
- In Madhu Limaye case, 1970, the court said that ‘the power of a magistrate under Section 144 is not an ordinary power flowing from administration but a power used in a judicial manner and which can stand further judicial scrutiny’.
- Thus, the court has upheld the constitutionality of the law at numerous occasions stating that the restrictions imposed through Section 144 are covered under the reasonable restrictions to the fundamental rights laid down under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
- As per the court, the fact that the law may be abused is no reason to strike it down.
- Section 144 merits a relook by the supreme court considering its wide usage.The state should bring forth an appropriate framework to be followed before the imposition of the section to make it objective .