'Suppression Of Legitimate Expression Of Opinion': Supreme Court Calls Out Repetitive Imposition Of Section 144
The colonial-era law, Section 144 of CrPC, authorises the Executive Magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area.
As massive protests against CAA continue to stir the country, The Logical Indian brings to you a comprehensive view on the imposition of Section 144.
In the past six months, on multiple occasions, Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was imposed in several parts of the country. Be it after the abrogation of Article 370, nationwide protests against CAA, NRC, or the verdict on Ram Mandir; the government imposed Sec 144 as a 'preventive' measure to avoid any violent incident.
The Supreme Court has also expressed its concern over the frequent imposition of this prohibitory order in its verdict on January 10.
The colonial-era law authorises the District Magistrate, a Sub-divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate to issue a written order prohibiting an individual or persons from exercising their fundamental rights to prevent any apprehended danger.
The section restricts people from carrying out any rallies or peaceful protests under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. According to the law, every member of such 'unlawful assembly' can be booked for engaging in rioting.
Supreme Court Verdict
The apex court had come down heavily on the Centre while hearing petitions on the extensive imposition of Sec 144 in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of the provisions of Article 370, which gave special status to the state.
The court, on January 10, said that imposition of the prohibitory orders to be violative of the "legitimate expression of opinion or grievance of any democratic rights."
"Section 144 cannot be used as a tool to prevent the legitimate expression of opinion or grievance of any democratic rights. Constitution protects the expression of divergent views... cannot be the basis for invocation of Section 144 unless there is sufficient material to show incitement to violence or threat to public safety," noted the bench headed by Justice NV Ramana.
"Repetitive orders under Section 144 would be an abuse of power," added the court. Further clarifying when Section 144 is to be used, the court said that it would be applicable in a situation of emergency and for the purpose of preventing obstruction and annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed.
The court further mentioned that Sec 144 has direct consequences upon the fundamental rights of the public. It said that power should be used responsibly.
Section 144 Imposition In Last Six Months
Section 144 was imposed multiple times in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, which gave special status to the state.
Ahead of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi land dispute case verdict, section 144 was imposed in Ayodhya.
After the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed in the Parliament on December 11 massive protests had erupted nationwide. To control the public outburst, and avoid any untoward incident of violence, section 144 was imposed in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Delhi.
The article is a part of our campaign on the repetitive imposition of a draconian colonial-era regulation.