Rumours were abound in Karnataka on Monday afternoon that Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was imposed after violent protests followed the Supreme Court order regarding the Cauvery water issue. However, the Bangalore City Police promptly tweeted that it was not the case.
However, later in the day Section 144 was imposed in parts of the city that were most affected by violence, and it will continue to be in place until Wednesday.
Among fear mongering, there remained confusion regarding what Section 144 really was.
What is Section 144 of CrPC?
It is the power that rests with the District Magistrate to "issue order in urgent cases of nuisance of apprehended danger."
Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 empowers a magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than five people in an area. According to sections141-149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the maximum punishment for engaging in rioting is rigorous imprisonment for 3 years and/or fine.
The law is a remnant of India's British occupation, when the English used this law to stop Indians who had begun protesting against colonial rule.
Section 144 in India
In Kashmir, there were talks that Section 144 would be imposed on Eid al-Adha to quell any fresh protests. The region has experienced lockdown over the last two months after the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani. Curfew was lifted in certain areas after 52 days of shutdown but Section 144 of CrPC stayed in many areas, which could penalise groups for gathering in public areas.
In February and much recently in June, the law was imposed in Delhi-Haryana border fearing Jat quota stir. The violent protests in February had led to many deaths and massive damage to public property in Haryana. The Jat community in the state had launched protests to demand reservation for the community.
In February 2015, the law was imposed in Ahmedabad, Gujarat to stop spread of H1N1 among the masses. More than 230 had been affected by the deadly disease.