Section 144 CrPC: Meaning and Cases

6 May 2023  Read 3250 Views

Section 144 CrPC has been widely covered in news channels and media outlets ever since the COVID-19 pandemic. It is usually invoked to deal with cases of violence or the spread of disease in a particular area disturbing public peace. However, apart from these, Section 144 CrPC has also been used in certain unusual situations. 

Say, in 2018, the district administration of Aligarh used Section 144 to ban the use of loudspeakers and public address systems during Navratri to prevent noise pollution. Then again, in 2020, the authorities in Jaipur imposed Section 144 to prohibit the sale and bursting of firecrackers during Diwali to control air pollution. These instances show the versatility of Section 144.

This provision has mostly been a subject of debate, with some experts arguing that it is necessary to curb the violence or spread of diseases, as the case may be, while others argue about its misuse and violation of citizens' rights. This article discusses what Section 144 CrPC means, recent and landmark instances, and the difference between sec. 144, curfew and lockdown, plus many more. So, let’s get started.

What is Section 144 CrPC?

Section 144 of the CrPC in India empowers a District Magistrate, a Sub-divisional Magistrate, or any other Executive Magistrate specially empowered by the State Government on this behalf to issue an order in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger. 

  • This provision is invoked when there is a risk of a public disturbance or law and order, and the magistrate thinks that some immediate action is mandatory to prevent such a situation.

  • The order passed under Section 144 CrPC prohibits the assembly of four or more persons in a public place carrying firearms and other dangerous weapons for any act that may cause a breach of peace. 

  • But this order will be applicable for a maximum of two months, and it can be extended for up to six months with the prior permission of the State Government.

  • Section 144 CrPC is considered an extraordinary measure usually invoked during civil unrest, communal tensions, or other circumstances that could break law and order. 

  • The nature of the violation of an order passed under this section is a cognizable offence punishable with imprisonment that may extend to three years, or with a fine, or both.

Who permits the imposition of Section 144 CrPC on a state?

Under Section 144 of CrPC, the power to impose an order lies with the District Magistrate, Sub-divisional Magistrate, or any other Executive Magistrate but empowered by the State Government. Hence, the State Government permits the Executive Magistrate to exercise the power under this section. 

Is Section 144 the same as Curfew and Lockdown?


Section 144




To prohibit the assembly of 4 or more people in a particular area in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger

To restrict the movement of people during certain hours of the day or night, they are asked to stay indoors, usually to maintain law and order.

To restrict the movement of people and enforce social distancing measures to control the spread of a contagious disease or epidemic, specifically 


It prohibits gathering but allows for the movement of individuals for crucial activities.

It prohibits the movement of people during specific hours but allows for essential activities.

It prohibits movement + encourages social distancing


In particular areas where there is a risk of a public disturbance or a law and order problem

In specific areas where there is a risk of a breach of public peace or public disorder

Across a city, region, or entire country to control the spread of a contagious disease or epidemic


Enforced by the district magistrate or any other executive magistrate

Enforced by the police

Enforced by the government authorities and supported by the police and other law enforcement agencies (Collector or Chief Medical Officer)


Generally imposed for a short duration, usually up to 2 months

Generally imposed for a few days or a week

Generally imposed for a long period, ranging from a few weeks to several months.


Imposed during protests, riots, and communal tensions

Imposed during emergencies, like natural disasters or terrorist attacks

Imposed during pandemics or epidemics to enforce social distancing measures and control the spread of the disease like COVID- 19



Recent cases related to Sec. 144 CrPC

  1. Sec. 144, imposed in UP after Atiq Ahmed’s encounter

Section 144 was imposed across Uttar Pradesh after the recent encounter killing of gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf. Additional forces were deployed in Prayagraj district, where the assassination took place. Atiq Ahmed and Ashraf were shot dead while they were being taken for medical tests & their murders were caught on cameras by media persons.

  1. Sec. 144 imposed in Manipur 

Section 144 CrPC were imposed in eight districts of Manipur, which is facing large-scale violence & the state had to impose shoot-at-sight order to curb such violence. This clash broke out between the tribals and the majority Meiteis community, displacing over 9,000 people for safety purposes due to the demand for an ST status for Meiteis & the eviction drive by the Manipur government to clear the reserve forests occupied by illegal immigrants in hill-based areas. 

  1. Imposing Sec. 144 in North Goa

Section 144 was implemented in North Goa in 2020, which was a consequence of intelligence reports concerning a potential terrorist threat along the western shore. In a notification, the North Goa District Magistrate also claimed that the order under Section 144 will be in effect from February 11 to April 10, 2020, for 60 days.

  1. Sec. 144 in J & K

On February 9, 2022, J & K experienced an internet disruption and section 144 was imposed in a few places, like in Srinagar, in honour of Maqbool Bhat, who was hanged in 1984. Similarly, in 2021, an internet shutdown was again imposed in Jammu & Kashmir on the death anniversary of Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013.

  1. Sec. 144 imposed during the COVID outbreak

In order to control the spread of coronavirus, which claimed millions of lives worldwide, many states in India, such as Mumbai, WB etc., enacted Section 144 on March 23, 2020. As the virus expanded throughout India, the measure helped the state governments curb the spread of COVID-19 to a certain extent.

  1. Sec. 144 imposed in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district administration imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC near Roorkee. Section 144 was imposed after the Supreme Court instructed the Uttarakhand government to commit that there would be no “untoward situation” or “unacceptable statements” during a maha panchayat that Hindu religious leaders in the village had planned on April 27th, 2022.

Grounds to impose restrictions under Section 144

First of all, read this bare provision of Section 144(1):

“In cases where, in the opinion of a District Magistrate, a Sub-divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate specially empowered by the State Government in this behalf, there is sufficient ground for proceeding under this section and immediate prevention or speedy remedy is desirable, such Magistrate may, by a written order stating the material facts of the case and served in the manner provided by section 134, direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to take certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management, if such Magistrate considers that such direction is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety or a disturbance of the public tranquillity, or a riot, or an affray.”

Read the phrase written in bold above and remember that the order passed under Section 144 can be justified only when it is likely to prevent any of these events:

  1. Annoyance

To prevent Annoyance that can either be mental or physical, under this section, the proximity between the annoying object and the annoyed person is needed in the case of physical annoyance. But there is no proximity issue with mental annoyance. 

So, when an order passed under Section 144, CrPC deals with a “nuisance”.

a. There must be a risk to the life or health of the public or of an altercation, riot, or breach of the peace. 

b. Any simple defamatory statements or highly offensive publications against significant authorities cannot be dealt with under Sec. 144 unless such statement or publication causes a disturbance or hazard to life or health. 

  1. Public disorder

To prevent any public disorder or disturbance that may lead to a breach of the peace or cause danger to human life, health, or safety. An act by a person shall be forbidden under this clause of section 144 if it could lead to obstacles or disturbance of the public peace, etc. The relationship between an act of a person and the disruption of public peace must be plausible or close, not just hypothetical.

  1. Riots

To prevent any riots or violent activities that may lead to the destruction of public or private property and cause harm to individuals.

  1. Epidemics

To prevent the spread of a contagious disease or epidemic that may threaten public health or safety.

  1. Unlawful assemblies

To prevent unlawful assemblies or any other activity that may disrupt public order and cause harm to individuals or property.

  1. Elections

To maintain public order and prevent any illegal or unauthorized activities during elections.

  1. Disputes

To prevent or control any disputes or conflicts between different groups or individuals that may lead to violence or public disorder.

  1. Natural calamities

To prevent any obstruction or hindrance to the efforts of the authorities in managing natural calamities or disasters.

Landmark Cases on Section 144 CrPC

There have been several landmark cases concerning this section’s use in India, giving its proper interpretation and applicability. Here are a few cases:

  1. Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017)

The validity of the orders issued under Section 144 of the CrPC shall be evaluated in context to these proportionality considerations: To evaluate proportionality, the Supreme Court established a four-part test in- 

  • A restriction on the right must have a justifiable purpose.

  • It must be an effective method for achieving this objective.

  • There must be a less stringent but equally effective substitute.

  • The action taken cannot unfairly disadvantage the rightsholder.

  1. ADM Jabalpur vs Shiv Kant Shukla (1976)

One of the most renowned cases related to Section 144, wherein the SC held that citizens' right to life and personal liberty can be suspended during an emergency declared under Article 352 of the Constitution. This decision was widely criticised for giving the government unchecked power to detain individuals without trial (preventive detention).

The Supreme Court later overruled the ADM Jabalpur judgment in the case of Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India (1978), which held that the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 cannot be suspended even during an emergency. 

  1. Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India (2019)

In this case, the SC ruled that any restrictions on internet access under Section 144 must abide to the principles of proportionality and necessity. The court held that indefinite suspension of internet services is not permissible under the law.

This decision is significant as it reaffirmed the importance of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to access information with respect to internet shutdowns, which have become increasingly common in India. 

  1. Ram Manohar Lohia vs State of Bihar (1966)

In this case, the Supreme Court held that the power to issue an order under Section 144 must be exercised in rare cases and only when there is an urgent and pressing need to maintain public tranquillity or order.

A person cannot be arrested for an offence punishable with less than two years of imprisonment without a warrant, except in certain situations, such as when the person is a habitual offender or is likely to breach the peace. Also, the right to personal liberty under Article 21 is a fundamental right, and any restriction on this right must be in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fair play.

  1. Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar (1962)

In this case, the Supreme Court held that an order passed under Section 144 must be specific and clear and that the order must be directed towards preventing a public disturbance or an imminent danger to public peace.

It also upheld the constitutionality of Section 124A of the IPC. Still, it stated that the section must be read down to exclude any speech or expression that does not involve the use of violence or incitement to violence. 

Criticism of Section 144 CrPC

  1. Lack of accountability: There is a lack of accountability in the exercise of power under Section 144, as the decision is made by an executive magistrate or the district magistrate without any need for a judicial overview. 

  2. Restrictions on civil liberties: Section 144 can be seen as a restriction on the right to freedom of assembly and expression, as it empowers the authorities to prohibit any assembly in a particular area from tampering with free speech and peaceful protests.

  3. Confusing: Section 144 CrPC is often too broad which can lead to confusion and misinterpretation of the order by law enforcement officials and citizens.

  4. Overuse of the section: There is a perception that Section 144 is used too frequently and is often imposed in situations where it is not needed, like during peaceful protests and rallies.

  5. Unintended consequences: Section 144 orders can have unintended consequences, like causing public incovenience, affecting the functioning of businesses, and distorting public transportation.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 269 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Manager at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course). She is a patent analyst & had also done advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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