What is Section 144 of CrPC and How it is Different from Curfew and Lockdown

With the outbreak of Coronavirus in India, news reports are continuously flashing regarding various governments and local authorities implementing Section 144 in a state or within a specified area. Let’s understand what this section talks about!

In India, Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is the primary legislation that deals with procedural aspects of criminal law. It was enacted in the year 1973.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with the power of the magistrate to issue an order in urgent cases of nuisance of apprehended danger. Section 144 is often enforced in areas where the government intends to control the law and order situation. This is so because, under Section 144 of CrPC, the executive magistrate of any state or union territory is authorized to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in a specified area. This is done in order to prevent any danger to human life, health or safety or for preventing a riot or any affray.

Whenever Section 144 is imposed in an area, all members of a group which has more than four people assembling within the specified area without prior permission from the relevant authorities may be booked under the charges of having engaged in rioting or affray or posing any danger to human life, health or safety.

Important Details Related to Section 144

What is the duration of Section 144?

Section 144 is imposed for two months. However, it can be withdrawn any moment the administration finds the situation has attained normalcy. The government may extend the duration of the restriction imposed under Section 144 beyond two months but not exceeding six months in one go.

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What is the difference between Section 144 and Curfew?

Section 144 and curfew are not the same things. A curfew order is issued specifying a time during which a particular rule or regulation has to be followed. In general, the curfew orders require the public to stay indoors/within their homes. On the other hand, Section 144 only prohibits unlawful assembly of more than 4 people.

Can internet be shut down under Section 144?

Yes, the internet shutdowns are issued under Section 144 as a measure to maintain public tranquillity within a specified area.

What is a lockdown? Is it different from Section 144?

A lockdown is a state protocol followed during emergencies and crisis to prevent people or information from leaving an area. Lockdown and Section 144 are very different from each other. While lockdown confines the people/information to a specified area, Section 144 restricts people from assembling in an area beyond a certain number. In a lockdown, essential supplies, grocery stores, pharmacies, and banks usually continue to serve the people. All non-essential activities remain closed for the entire period of lockdown.