Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 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. According to the law, every member of such 'unlawful assembly' can be booked for engaging in rioting.
Section 144 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. Section 144 of CrPC generally prohibits public gathering.
Section 144 has been used in the past to impose restrictions as a means to prevent protests that can lead to unrest or riots. The orders to impose Section 144 have been conferred to Executive Magistrate when there is an emergency situation.
Section 144 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.
According to the order under this section, there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed and there will be a complete bar on holding any kind of public meetings or rallies during the period of operation of this order.
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.
144 CrPC bars the conduct of certain activities or actions or events which are allowed to be done in regular course. It is imposed to ensure maintenance of peace and tranquillity in an area.
Duration of Section 144 order
No order under Section 144 shall remain in force for more than two months but the state government can extent the validity for two months and maximum up to six months. It can be withdrawn at any point of time if situation becomes normal.
Why is Section 144 in news?
In view of the prevailing security situation in Jammu and Kashmir in recent days, the government has imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in the state. According to the order, "any pre-planned congregation/sudden unforeseen congregation of ritualistic nature shall be conducted with the prior approval of the District Magistrate".
These developments come days after Indian Army had said that Pakistani terrorists were plotting to carry out an attack on the Amarnath Yatra and that the security forces had recovered a Pakistan Ordnance Factory anti-personnel mine from a terror cache.