Slapping Section 144 during CAA protests ‘illegal’: Karnataka High Court

Court raps Bengaluru police chief.

Published - February 14, 2020 12:41 am IST - Bengaluru

Police detain historian Ramachandra Guha at Town Hall in Bengaluru on December 19, 2019 during a protest against the citizenship law.

Police detain historian Ramachandra Guha at Town Hall in Bengaluru on December 19, 2019 during a protest against the citizenship law.

The Karnataka High Court on Thursday declared as “illegal” the order passed by the Bengaluru City Police Commissioner imposing Section 144 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Cr.PC) from December 19 to 21, 2019, ahead of a series of pro- and anti- Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rallies.

The court held that the order did not stand judicial scrutiny in terms of the parameters laid down by the Supreme Court.

The HC said the City Police Commissioner, discharging his duty as the District Magistrate (DM) had failed to give “reasons” in his December 18, 2019, order invoking Section 144 in contravention to the parameters laid down by the apex court in the cases of Anuradha Bhasin Vs Union of India and the Ramlila Maidan Incident Vs Union of India .

However, the Bench said that its order was confined only to the December 18, 2019, order passed by the District Magistrate and it had only examined the decision-making process while invoking Section 144, and had not examined the correctness of the decision.

The Bench also said the order should not be construed to mean that the State is helpless to invoke the prohibitory order if the situation so warrants.

Also read | Ramachandra Guha detained in Bengaluru | Bengaluru defies Section 144

A division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Hemant Chandangoudar passed the order while partly allowing a batch of petitions, in which legality and correctness of imposition of prohibitory order was questioned as several permissions for holding rallies and protests were cancelled due to invoking of Section 144.

Also, making it clear that it has not gone into the grounds on which the prohibitory order was passed, the Bench said even assuming that there were valid reasons for imposing Section 144, the order passed on December 18, 2019, by the DM can’t stand to scrutiny of law in view of Supreme Court’s orders.

Observing that the DM is expected to form an opinion citing reasons in his order for imposing Section 144, the Bench said that in the present instance, the DM has only referred to the recommendations made by eight Deputy Commissioners of Police to invoke Section 144 and ‘there was no indication of independent application of mind by the DM.”

Referring to a communication issued by the Director-General and Inspector General of Police emphasising the need for imposing Section 144 in various parts of the State, the Bench said Section 144 cannot be imposed merely relying upon opinion of superior officer as the DM has to record reasons on subjective satisfaction about the need for such prohibitory orders.

The Bench also said the DM, after receiving inputs from DCPs, should have conducted an enquiry, may be the standard of the enquiry could have been different as inputs he received was from DCPs. The Bench also pointed out that barring a few, communications received from the DCPs were identical.

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