COVID-19 in Mumbai: Section 144? Don't panic, say city cops

Updated: 18 September, 2020 07:22 IST | Faizan Khan, Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

As order against public gatherings causes flutter, police and ruling leader say it is routine order and all relaxations as per Unlock 4 will continue

Locals recently gathered to see actress Kangana Ranaut who had come to meet the governor at Raj Bhavan. Pic/ Ashish Raje
Locals recently gathered to see actress Kangana Ranaut who had come to meet the governor at Raj Bhavan. Pic/ Ashish Raje

A Mumbai police order extending the imposition of Section 144 to ban public gatherings under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) till September 30 sparked panic as citizens thought the city has been put under fresh restrictions due to increasing COVID-19 cases. As the order went viral, police issued a clarification stating that there are no fresh restrictions. 

THE order, signed by DCP (Operations) Shahji Umap, states, "All movement of one or more persons in the areas designated as 'containment zones' by the municipal authorities is prohibited, except for essential activities, supply of essential goods and medical emergencies."

"Movement of one person or people prohibited except for listed emergency and non-emergency services. Government/semi-government agencies and their officials on duty are permitted during this order," it added.

The order was widely shared on social media platforms and went viral on WhatsApp. People thought there would be no stepping out of homes or going to work.

"I panicked after I received the order on WhatsApp. I was worried if we would be allowed to go to work. I am a lawyer and after reading it carefully, realised that it is a mere technicality and that things will remain as per the latest Unlock order. People who are unaware of such technicalities started panicking and calling others to get clarity," said Advocate Abrar Chaudhary, a Kharghar resident.

A group of people at Marine Drive last month. PIC/BIPIN KOKATE
A group of people at Marine Drive last month. PIC/BIPIN KOKATE

"What is Section 144 , Mumbai mein firse lockdown hoga kya ??", Twitter user @TrpFor tweeted.

Following such tweets, Mumbai police spokesperson DCP N Ambika issued a statement saying, "DCP Operations has issued an order under 144 CrPC yesterday which will be applicable in Mumbai city upto September 30. It is issued as per the guidelines received from state government on August 31 regarding Easing of Restrictions and Phase wise Opening of Lockdown (Mission Begin Again) and no new/fresh restrictions have been imposed by Mumbai police."

Cabinet minister Aaditya Thackeray tweeted, "NO need to PANIC, The order issued under Section 144 CrPC is only an extension of the previous order issued on 31st August. No new restrictions have been imposed by @MumbaiPolice . Please share and don't panic."

'Preventive action'

A senior police officer told mid-day that the enforcement of Section 144 is a 'preventive action'. "This is a metro city and the financial capital of India. Section 144 is implemented considering future contingencies. This restricts free mobility of people, gathering and prevents flying of drones in the city."

"This section can remain in force for two months. Due to the pandemic, government rules are changing fast. The decision to implement Section 144 in the lockdown period is taken every 15 days," said the officer.

Section 144 is always imposed in Mumbai every two months, especially during Ganeshotsav, Eid and other festivals. Amid the lockdown, specific orders were given for the festivals keeping COVID in mind. In pre-COVID times, the order used to be an ordinary one without specifics.

People started wondering if they would be allowed to step out for any activity, like walking at Juhu beach for instance. PIC/SATEJ SHINDEPeople started wondering if they would be allowed to step out for any activity, like walking at Juhu beach for instance. PIC/SATEJ SHINDE

Movement is allowed but police take action under the order when there is a law and order situation. "It is a very broad section. Considering Mumbai, it is imposed every two months based on the threat perception received from the intelligence department. It restricts the gathering of more than four to five people but action is taken when there is a law and order problem. The section is imposed in advance so that police does not have to get a court order at the time of an actual emergency," an IPS officer said.

Also Read: COVID-19: Mumbai down to last 153 ICU beds and 63 ventilators

Citizens confused

Mumbaikar Ramesh Shahi said, "I have to urgently visit my ailing aunt in Bandra with my family. There is no clarity if our vehicle will be impounded or we will face police action if we step out on Friday. The extension of Section 144 is vague. The police must clarify if we can travel via road. My aunt is 78 years old and has been staying alone."

Another Mumbaikar Neha Taneja said, "My cousins are arriving from Delhi in the morning and I have to receive them at the airport so that they don't have to travel in a cab. But I am not sure if we will be detained by cops if we step out. Why has this order been implemented when people are already taking precautions?"

Kalyani Sharma, who is pregnant, said, "My husband is out of town. I called my friend to take me to the doctor but she is scared to leave the house after the order got implemented. I'm worried if I will be able to see the doctor at all."

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First Published: 18 September, 2020 07:06 IST

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