Central nod to Gujarat Bill allowing police to act against protestors without informing court came month before polls

The Bill seeks to make violations of prohibitory orders issued under Section 144 of the CrPC a cognisable offence under Section 188 of the IPC, a section which saw a spurt in cases during the lockdown

Updated - December 07, 2022 10:58 am IST

Published - December 06, 2022 06:54 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Image for representation purpose only.

Image for representation purpose only. | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

A month before Gujarat went to the polls, the Centre cleared a State legislation that empowers police officers to register cases — without informing the local court in writing — against persons who protest and agitate violating Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Section 144 empowers police and district magistrates to issue order in urgent cases of nuisance of apprehended danger.

The Code of Criminal Procedure (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by the State Assembly in March 2021. It was sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to examine if it was repugnant with any central law or deviated from the Central government’s policy. The clearance to the amendment comes at a time when the Ministry is actively working to overhaul the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the CrPC to remove any colonial baggage from the codes. 

After holding inter-ministerial consultations, the MHA gave an opinion to process the bill, following which it was signed by the President, paving the way for it to become the law in Gujarat.

The bill seeks to make any violation of prohibitory orders issued under Section 144 CrPC, a cognisable offence under Section 188 of the IPC (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant). 

It amends Section 195 of the CrPC, which states that no court shall take cognisance of any criminal conspiracy for contempt of lawful authority of public servants, except on the complaint in writing of the public servant concerned.

The statement and objects of the bill moved by the then-Gujarat home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja said that the Government of Gujarat, Commissioners of Police and District Magistrates are empowered to issue prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC directing any person to abstain from certain act or to take certain order to prevent disturbance of public tranquility or a riot or an affray to maintain public order on various occasions. It said that police officers while deployed on such duties come across incidents of violation and need to take appropriate legal action against the violators under Section 188 of the IPC. 

“However, Section 195 of the CrPC, 1973 makes it mandatory for the public servant issuing such orders to be the complainant against the violators thereby creating an impediment for taking cognizance of violations.... Section 195 (1) (a) (ii) CrPC prohibits the jurisdictional courts from taking cognizance of the offences except on the complaint in writing of the public servant concerned,” the statement said.

Section 188 IPC was invoked liberally by police across the country on the directions of the MHA during the COVID-19 induced lockdown years of 2020 and 2021. In those two years, the number of cases registered under the said section stood at 6.12 lakh and 3.22 lakh respectively, a sharp jump from the 29,469 and 22,907 cases registered in 2019 and 2018 respectively.

The maximum punishment under the Section is six months imprisonment. 

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