Gang-rape: High Court slams Delhi Police for imposing Section 144

Delhi HC observed that Section 144 of CrPC will lose its "sanctity" if it is invoked by authorities "just like that".

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday observed that Section 144 of CrPC under which prohibitory orders can be clamped will lose its "sanctity" if it is invoked by authorities "just like that" since there are rights to movement and speech and expression.

With this observation, the Court reserved its verdict on a plea challenging imposition of prohibitory orders in and around India Gate in the heart of the Capital during the recent protests against the gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl.

"There are rights to movement and speech and expression, it (section 144 of the CrPC) cannot be used just like that... otherwise it would lead to loss of the sanctity," a bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice VK Jain said.

The observations came during hearing of a PIL filed by Delhi-based advocate Anand K Mishra, who alleged that the prohibitory order was imposed in an "arbitrary" manner and without following the procedures enshrined under the CrPC.

Appearing for Delhi police, Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra opposed the plea saying the guidelines for imposition of prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC (which deals with power to issue order in urgent cases of nuisance or apprehended danger) cannot be framed as all cases are "distinguishable" and contain different facts.

A senior lawyer, appearing for advocate Mishra, said "The whole Capital was traumatised over the gang rape and thousands of girl students and others, who do not feel safe, came to join the social movement. It was not a political movement. The section (144) cannot be used to curtail the constitutional rights."

He also cited various apex court judgements including the verdict on the Ramlila Maidan incident involving Baba Ramdev and his supporters and sought framing of guidelines on the issue.

"As far as this notification (on invoking sec-144 in and around India Gate) is concerned, if that is not in place now then what is the purpose of the petition," Justice Murugesan said.

The PIL, filed against the Ministry of Home Affairs, city government and the police, had sought a direction to declare as "unconstitutional and illegal" the prohibitory orders issued on December 22.