Atop the prevailing section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), a Gag Order has been issued in Mumbai in addition to the ongoing prohibitory orders. The Mumbai Police Commisionerate issued this on Saturday, May 23. This entails the execution of regulations offline, as well as online. The protocol has been augmented for social media usage as well, and any person speaking against the functioning of the state government will have to face the repercussions.
The gag order was signed the Depute Commissioner of Mumbai Police, Pranaya Ashoka, and explicitly state that the dissemination of false and unverified information in regards to the government’s functionality is prohibited. Legal action will be taken against individuals who violate the order.
The order is effected for a duration of 14 days, i.e., from May 25 to June 8. It has been established to prevent the invocation of mistrust towards public officials and the government functionaries. As per the police, any “danger to human health or safety or a disturbance to the public tranquillity,” is not to be tolerated, as the order has been prosecuted under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Amidst the ongoing pandemic, it has been observed that the tri-party led by Shiv Sena Head, and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, has incurred several attacks from the opposition superiors of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Uddhav Thackeray’s resignation is being propagated by the BJP.
Moreover, within a short duration, the Bombay High Court appealed against the issue of the gag order, and demands that it should be adjourned before the regular court; thus, declaring an insurgency of its promulgation. According to Justice R.K. Deshpande, “Prima facie, the object of issuing the order seem to genuinely protect the persons from false and incorrect information being provided in respect of COVID-19 disease, which is spread all over.”
On the contrary, the Former Judge of Patna High Court, Justice Anjana Prakash, told The Wire, “The gag order is prima facie illegal and beyond the scope of section 144 of CrPC. The magistrate does not have such wide and unbridled powers.” To this, Disha Wadekar, a Supreme Court Lawyer, added, “Section 144 cannot be used as a legal tool to suppress the constitutional rights.”
Regardless of the regression, several orders have been issued in Mumbai for a period of close to three decades, and the assistance of the state police seems to have played a major role in its facilitation.