There is no legal section that can define curfew. This is a layman’s word that has not become popular. Curfew is any restriction that is imposed on a person to remain indoors. Ex: For a child aged around 10 years, when parents ask him to return home by 6 pm after playing, then, for that child his curfew time is 6 pm. This also means that a person, whether a child or an adult, should not go out at a specific period of time. Curfew is generally a self- imposed restriction. The best recent example is the ‘Janata Curfew’, where our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged all the Indian citizens to stay home so that there is at least a minute stoppage in the outbreak of the wide spreading coronavirus i.e. COVID-19.
In other words, you can say that, curfew is a ‘bandh’, where only very essential services will be available. A curfew, orders people to stay indoors for a specific period of time. So, the authorities can impose curfew for certain period of time. The element of time is very important. However, the authorities can also extend the curfew if the need be.
Shoot at sight
Shoot at sight basically means that the authorities who have the powers can shoot the person who has been escaping for long or who tries to escape from police custody. This can be issued and ordered by the executive magistrate only. However, there is no specific section for shoot-at-sight. And no police, just by knowing himself that the person is a criminal can shoot him the moment he sees him.
When section 144 is in an area, and still, there are groups of people gathering, and creating public nuisance, then, after considerable amount of warnings, the policeman can start ‘latti charge’ or shoot. This is done and can be done only when the police are not able to curb and control the nuisance.
Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code
Section 144 gives the ‘Power to issue order in urgent cases of nuisance of apprehended danger.’ This section is prohibitory in nature. If the magistrate has sufficient grounds to believe that there is threat or believes that it is very much necessary to stop the movement of the citizens, he can, by a written statement with all the details provided in it, impose restriction either to an individual, or a group of people or for the country as a whole. Section 144 can be in force only for a period of 2 months and in extraordinary cases, may be extended to 6 months. According to section 145 of Cr.P.C., punishment for violation of this section shall extend up to three (3) years of imprisonment.
When section 144 is imposed, not more than 4 people can come together for meeting, if found, them they can be booked under ‘rioting’ (section 146 to 148 of IPC) or ‘unlawful assembly’ (section 141 of IPC),’public tranquillity’ or ‘affray’. It can be imposed when the government expects any danger or threat. The implementers shall have absolute powers.
However, section 144 violates Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution i.e. Right to Peaceful Assembly and Right to freedom of speech and expression. This is because, constitution of India provides the right to people to peacefully assemble in public areas without arms, but section 144 of Cr.P.C. does not allow this.
Section 144 was imposed in various states of India as a result of pandemic of coronavirus, like Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag, Mumbai etc. Section 144 was also imposed for the growing agitation of The Citizenship Amendment Act.
Section 144 has now been implemented throughout India for COVID-19 too. However, essentials will be available at a specified timing. In this case, 144 was implemented, so that the spread of the coronavirus is restricted.
In case of Prabhas Kumar Roy v The Officer in charge, Raninagar Police Station, 1985 an order under s.144 prohibiting the petitioners from taking out an immersion procession of Goddess Durga and passing in front of a mosque with music on a particular day was held to be violative of the rights guaranteed by Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution of the processionists. An order under s.144 directing the respondent to remove a bund obstructing the flow of water was quashed as it was unlimited in duration and permanent effect in case of Parathoda Panchayat v. kanjirappally Pachayat, 1948. In case of A.H. Wheeler v. State of Bihar, 1988, the Magistrate cannot order a party to be dispossessed and order other party to be put in possession in a proceeding under section 144.
In case of Shaik Piru Bux v. Kalandi Pati, there are few principles that were to be kept in mind:
- Urgency of the situation
- Maintenance of public peace and tranquillity
- Private rights of the public are temporarily overridden
- Title of property or disputes of civil nature are not open to adjudication in proceeding under section 144.
- Consideration should not be the restriction.
“The views of the authors are personal“