The Delhi government’s recent decision to impose Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) — prohibiting the assembly of 10 or more people — near Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence was the brainchild of “overzealous” officials, according to sources.
A government notification on August 2 had banned public meetings, protests, and shouting of slogans near the Chief Minister’s residence for the next 30 days, in view of “serious and law and order problems”.
However, Delhi Police have asked Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) of Civil Lines, B K Jha, to withdraw the notification.
Delhi Police’s communication to the SDM came hours after the Delhi High Court held that the capital was a Union Territory and under the “administrative control” of the Lieutenant Governor, not the AAP government.
Police have claimed that in Delhi, the power to impose Section 144 was with the police chief, not the SDM.
On how the stringent Section 144 was imposed in the first place, sources said the Chief Minister, acting on complaints received from his neighbours, had asked senior officials to “look into” ways to deal with the “nuisance” created by demonstrations and dharnas near his residence.
Kejriwal and the AAP government led by him are often the target of protests by the BJP and the Congress, held near his residence on Flagstaff Road.
The Chief Minister’s Office also communicated to the officials that they needed to take some measures as there was a “threat perception” against Kejriwal, said sources.
Sources said while the original plan was to impose Section 133 of CrPC — which deals with “conditional order for removal of nuisance” — some officials thought Section 144 would be a better fit.
“The officials went overboard and imposed Section 144, which is used only in urgent matters or when authorities are apprehensive about a law and order situation,” said the source.
Now the Delhi government is planning to seek legal advice on whether police have the power to make them withdraw the notification, said sources.
“Delhi Police have said a notification by the Ministry of Home Affairs gives the police commissioner powers equal to district and executive magistrates in the capital… we will consult our legal department about this,” said a senior government official.