Why has Delhi Police imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 in flood-prone areas of the city?


Incessant rain in Delhi and surrounding areas, as well as release of water from Hathni Kund Barrage has has heightened the risk of flood-like conditions in low-lying areas in the vicinity of the river, the Delhi Police said in a statement.

Consequently, the Delhi Police announced earlier today (July 12) that it has imposed prohibitory measures under CrPC section 144 in flood-prone areas of the city.

What is Section 144?

Section 144 CrPC, a law retained from the colonial era, empowers a district magistrate, a sub-divisional magistrate or any other executive magistrate specially empowered by the state government in this behalf to issue orders to prevent and address urgent cases of apprehended danger or nuisance.

The magistrate has to pass a written order which may be directed against a particular individual, or to persons residing in a particular place or area, or to the public generally when frequenting or visiting a particular place or area. In emergency cases, the magistrate can pass these orders without prior notice to the individual against whom the order is directed.

What powers does the administration have under the provision?

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. This usually includes restrictions on movement, carrying arms and from assembling unlawfully. It is generally believed that assembly of three or more people is prohibited under Section 144.

However, it can be used to restrict even a single individual. Such an order is passed when the magistrate considers that it is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, of an affray.

However, no order passed under Section 144 can remain in force for more than two months from the date of the order, unless the state government considers it necessary. Even then, the total period cannot extend to more than six months.

When is Section 144 imposed?

As such, there is no hard and fast rule about the situations in which the section can be invoked. In fact, the criticism of Section 144 lies in that it is too broad and the words of the section are wide enough for it to be exercised unjustifiably. However, it remains popular with the authorities as it gives them a wide range of discretionary powers.

Advocates Vrinda Bhandari, Abhinav Sekhri, Natasha Maheshwari and Madhav Aggarwal studied over 5,400 orders “imposing Section 144” by the Delhi Police that were issued between January 1, 2021, to January 1, 2022.

The study found that the section has been imposed in a variety of situations, from the installation of CCTV cameras (accounting for a whopping 25.6% of all cases) to the prohibition of using a certain kind of manjha while flying kites. Notably, the study found that only 1.5%, that is 81 of the 5,400 orders, impose a blanket restriction on unlawful assembly.

“In fact, in 5 out of 18 districts/ units/subdivisions, orders restricting the right to public assembly were not issued at all,” the study noted.

Why has Section 144 been imposed due to flooding in Delhi?

Prohibitory measures under Section 144 in flood-prone areas of the city are aimed towards preventing chaos and public movement in big groups.

This is not the first time that Section 144 has been imposed in the NCR after heavy rains caused chaos across the capital.

In 2016, as thousands of commuters were left stranded on Gurgaon-Delhi Expressway and NH-8 due water-logging caused by a torrential downpour, then Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner T L Satyaprakash imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 near Hero Honda Chowk for easing out the congestion.


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