Corona virus has taken over our lives in a very drastic manner, recently the Indian Prime minister announced a nationwide lockdown that will come in effect from midnight of 25 March for 21 days i.e., till 14 April. The curfew in a nation like India has had a mixed response while some are praised the government for such a bold step and stated it as the need of the hour. On the other hand, this curfew has raised havoc in the life of millions. The main challenges that are present in front of the government in India are:
Firstly, millions of Indians survive on daily wages.
Secondly, a restlessness among the masses to reach home.
Thirdly, the lack of healthcare facilities in this situation is straining the medical infrastructure that is underdeveloped.
Fourthly, humans are a social animal, they have a need to mingle recently on the Janta curfew millions of people practiced social distancing but at 5’o clock a few gathered in groups to applaud and praise the healthcare staff along with the essential services workers.
Now the question arises, what all are the Laws that are helping the state Lockdown.
The orders pertaining to lockdowns and curfews are enacted by the powers established under the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 and Disaster Management Act, 2005 along with the imposition of Section 144 of CrPC imposed by the District Magistrate in several districts.
Section 144 of CrPC
In order to deal with any emergent situations that may arise the Judiciary has been bestowed with a wide ambit in the form of Section 144. This order is imposed in cases of nuisance or danger and is issued only in cases where there is an urgent need to control the situation. The order issued under this section is anticipatory in nature but in the opinion of the magistrate, there are sufficient grounds for imposing the section.
An order directs either to a person who is withholding from doing a certain act or if a property is in his possession order in such respect may be passed.
The order must contain the following:
- It should be in writing
- It must be specific and definite in terms
- Material facts must be stated
- Prohibition is to be clearly stated.
What are the grounds to pass an order under Section 144?
The offence in the opinion of the magistrate prevents, or tends to prevent one of the following:
- Injury to a person lawfully employed
- A danger to human life
In the case of Manzur Hasan v. Muhammad Zaman[i], a few guidelines were established to pass an order under this section. It was held that only under certain principles such an order is to be passed those were as follows:
- The order is to be used only to maintain public peace or tranquillity.
- Public rights are of utmost priority to maintain them a few private rights can be annulled temporarily.
- This Order does not deal with civil Rights or dispute regarding the title of the property.
- An order cannot be of Permanent or Semi-Permanent in nature[ii].
What is the Rationale behind Section 144?
Under Section 144 the orders are acceptable when they are likely to prevent:
- Injury to Human Life
- Disturbance of Public Tranquility
- In Interest of Public
Constitutional Validity of Section 144
In the case of Madhu Limaye v S.D.M. Monghyr[iii], the constitutional validity of this section was challenged as they were restricting the freedom granted under Article19(1). The court held the restrictions on the fundamental rights as reasonable in nature and there was a need to maintain Public Peace and Tranquillity in severe cases and hence this section was not unconstitutional and preventive action taken under this section was justifiable.
What is Duration if the Order?
Under Section 144 an order can be passed for 60 days from the time of initiation of proceedings, this time period can be extended by a maximum of 6 months by the State government. This power of the state is executive in nature but on unreasonable grounds can be challenged by the Court.
Indian Penal Code and Curfew
- Under Epidemic Disease Act, it is stated that any violation of regulations enforced under this Act is an offence under Section 188 of IPC that states disobedience that causes obstruction, annoyance or injury to a public servant and any disobedience that endangered the human life, health and safety.
- Section 269 of the Indian Penal Code, This provision talks about any negligent act that has the effect of spreading any infection or disease.
- Section 270 of the Indian Penal Code is a more gruesome or serious variant of Section 269 where the former section is punishable for up to 6 months the later section is punishable for up to 2 years.
- Section 271 of the Indian Penal Code, this provision deals with disobedience of quarantine.
In wake of the recent outbreak, an FIR was launched against the celebrity Kanika Kapoor who in violation of her quarantine attended a large gathering and endangered the life of hundreds the FIR was launched under Section 188, 269, 270 and 271 of Indian Penal Code. In order to maintain the public peace and to stop this pandemic from spreading the government has taken some bold steps that has disrupted the lives of millions of Indians and to stop them from raising a havoc many magistrate of different districts have passed the order under Sec. 144. In Delhi, the meeting of 5 or more people is prohibited whereas in Mumbai 4 or more people. In violation of this sections imprisonment of up to 3 years can be granted. This offence is both Bailable and cognizable offence. The only cure to this outbreak is social distancing as the Prime Minister stated that these 21 days are crucial to India if the people do not practice social distancing in the given time frame the nation will be set back at least 21 years. To avoid this pandemic to reach the third stage we all need to put equal efforts to combat the outbreak.
Stay Home Stay Safe.
[i]1921 ILR 43 All 692
[ii]Acharya Jagdishwaranand Avadhuta v. Police Commissioner AIR 1984 SC 51
[iii] AIR (1971) SC 2486
ABOUTH THE AUTHOR
Shivani Sethi, 3rd Year, BBA, LL.B (H), Banasthali Vidhyapeeth