Telangana CM warns of shoot-at-sight orders: Shoot-at-sight explained!

Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has issued a warning stating that “shoot-at-sight” orders will be issued if people continue to be on streets. This comes after the Union government, on March 24th, announced a nationwide lockdown for 21-days, starting from 25th March. However, the government stated that there will be exceptions for essential commodities like groceries, medicines and cooking gas.

“If people do not listen and stay indoors, we will be forced to implement a 24-hour curfew. If people continue to be on the streets, then the army has to be called out and shoot at sight orders may be issued,” the chief minister said while appealing people to follow the lockdown rules.

Even when the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a list of essential services and goods exempted from the lockdown in order to discourage people from panic buying, reports have highlighted that police have beaten up people found outdoors – even those walking out of their homes to procure these said essentials. This has resulted in triggering panic and huge inconveniences.

According to the last reports from Telangana, the state has 41 positive cases as of 26th March evening. 19,000+ people, including foreign nationals and Indian citizens who returned from abroad and those who came in contact with them, have been put under medical observation. Further, the CM said, "We are taking away the passports of patients who have tested positive for novel coronavirus. Those violating home quarantine protocol will also face passport seizure,".

Curfew is to be observed between 7 PM and 6 AM. All the shops must be closed by 6 PM. “ We will deal strictly with violators," CM warned.


Before this, shoot-at-sight order was announced by the Delhi Police SP in Yamuna Vihar area in North-East Delhi for the anti-CAA protestors. Have you come across this phrase in news etc., and wondered what it is? What legal provisions go with this action?  And who can order it?

Well to make it clear- there is no such thing as ‘shoot-at-sight’ in law. Infact the word ‘curfew’ is no where to be found in law either!

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which is often used as a synonym to these words, no where states it. Infact, in a civilised, democratic state, one cannot have a provision where officers can just shoot a person for being somewhere.

Section 144 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973, states -

144. Power to issue order in urgent cases of nuisance of apprehended danger.

(1) In cases where, in the opinion of a District Magistrate, a Sub- divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate specially empowered by the State Government in this behalf, there is sufficient ground for proceeding under this section and immediate prevention or speedy remedy is desirable, such Magistrate may, by a written order stating the material facts of the case and served in the manner provided by section 134, direct any person to abstain from a certain act or to take certain order with respect to certain property in his possession or under his management, if such Magistrate considers that such direction is likely to prevent, or tends to prevent, obstruction, annoyance or injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, of an affray.

(2) An order under this section may, in cases of emergency or in cases where the circumstances do not admit of the serving in due time of a notice upon the person against whom the order is directed, be passed ex parte.

(3) An order under this section may be directed to a particular individual, or to persons residing in a particular place or area, or to the public generally when frequenting or visiting a particular place or area.

(4) No order under this section shall remain in force for more than two months from the making thereof: Provided that, if the State Government considers it necessary so to do for preventing danger to human life, health or safety or for preventing a riot or any affray, it may, by notification, direct that an order made by a Magistrate under this section shall remain in force for such further period not exceeding six months from the date on which the order made by the Magistrate would have, but for such order, expired, as it may specify in the said notification.

(5) Any Magistrate may, either on his own motion or on the application of any person aggrieved, rescind or alter any order made under this section, by himself or any Magistrate subordinate to him or by his predecessor- in- office.

(6) The State Government may, either on its own motion or on the application of any person aggrieved, rescind or alter any order made by it under the proviso to sub- section (4).

(7) Where an application under sub- section (5) or sub- section (6) is received, the Magistrate, or the State Government, as the case may be, shall afford to the applicant an early opportunity of appearing before him or it, either in person or by pleader and showing cause against the order; and if the Magistrate or the State Government, as the case may be, rejects the application wholly or in part, he or it shall record in writing the reasons for so doing. D.- Disputes as to immovable property.

What are curfews?

If a magistrate issues order to individual or group or public at large stating that they can’t do a specific action as those things may pose danger to people group or society then these are prohibitory orders. Basically, curfews are prohibitory orders.

What happens if these prohibitory orders or ‘curfews’ are violated?

They have committed a cognizable offence i.e. any police man, officer can arrest them without any warrant from the court. Once arrested the person is to be prosecuted under section 188 of IPC .

But can the police beat up the person or cause any physical harm?

Well, the answer is no, it goes against the law. However, if the person is indulging in violence then the police can take specific action. Whilst police cannot shoot a person at sight just for violating an order under section 144, if the person violating is a part of a mob and it cannot be controlled by tear gas or laathi charge, then following a proper procedure and having given sufficient warning the police can take action. Thus actions can be taken to prevent or in response to the action the people are taking.

Therefore, just by being present and violating 144 the person cannot be beaten up or cannot be shot.

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