The Gujarat Police can now register criminal cases against citizens if they stage protests in violation of Section 144 (power to issue prohibitory orders) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
President of India Droupadi Murmu gave her assent to the Code of Criminal Procedure (Gujarat Amendment) Bill, 2021, which makes such an act a cognizable offence under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Section 144 empowers a magistrate to direct any person to abstain from a certain act if he feels that such direction is likely to prevent obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of public tranquility.
By virtue of this Bill, which was passed by the State Assembly in March 2021, the State has amended Section 195 of the CrPC, which made it mandatory for a public servant to be the complainant to initiate action for violation of Section 144 orders. This, in the opinion of the Gujarat government, created an impediment for police officers in taking cognizance of such violations.
"...section 195 (1) (a) (ii) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 prohibits the jurisdictional courts from taking cognizance of the offences except on the complaint in writing of the public servant concerned," the Bill's Statement of Objects and Reasons reads.
In other words, the police can now lodge criminal cases against protestors without the need for a complaint from a public servant.
Justifying the need to bring in such an amendment, the Bill states,
"The proposed amendment of provisions section 195 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 is necessary to facilitate registration of criminal cases based on the information received from police officers regarding commission of cognizable offences under section 174-A and section 188 of Indian Penal Code, 1860."