Protesters blocking trains booked under Cr.PC provisions and released same day

Registering protest by blocking trains may be an effective attention-grabbing exercise. But many protesters seem to be unaware that the Railway Act, 1989, prescribes two years imprisonment if the offence is proved in a court.

The bandh called on Tuesday by more than a dozen Tamil nationalist organisations and political parties witnessed a series of rail roko agitations across Southern Railway.

The Chennai-bound Vaigai Express was detained in Madurai, and many other long-distance trains were delayed in Chennai and Coimbatore. The slogan-shouting activists squatted on the track, and some climbed atop the locomotive (engine).

Section 174 of the Act states that any person, including a railway servant, who attempts to obstruct or obstructs any train or other rolling stock upon a railway by way of squatting or picketing or during any rail-roko agitation or bandh or by keeping without authority any rolling stock on the railway…shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend up to Rs. 2,000 or with both. Section 147 (Trespass and refusal to desist from trespass) is also a punishable offence.

However, protesters resorting to rail roko agitations in the State are usually detained by the local police under the provisions of Section 151 of Cr.PC. It says that a police officer, knowing that a person is planning to commit any cognisable offence, may arrest him or her without orders from the Magistrate and without a warrant…and no person arrested under such provision shall be detained in custody for more than 24 hours.

When contacted a police official said rail roko agitations were common when the protesters intended to show their dissent against the Centre.

It had been the practice over the years to take a lenient view and arrest them under the provisions of Cr.PC so that they could be released the same day.

Hundreds of protesters, including Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Vaiko, who were arrested for entering railway premises and blocking trains on Tuesday were released hours later.

The bandh was called demanding that India totally boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka.

  • “Rail roko is common when protesters intend to show their dissent against the Centre”

  • “Railway Act prescribes two years imprisonment if offence is proved in a court”