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Police and public order in Delhi

Topics Covered: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Police and public order in Delhi

What to study?
For Prelims: Limitations of Delhi Legislature, who handles police and public order in Delhi?
For Mains: Concerns over Delhi Legislature’s limitations, implications and measures needed.


The Delhi High Court has issued a series of directions to the Delhi police, the State government and other agencies for providing all necessary assistance to those affected by the violence in northeast Delhi.

  • The directions were given on a petition seeking police protection for the safe passage of the injured persons from Al Hind Hospital to other nearest hospitals.

More than 20 people have been killed in Delhi’s worst-ever communal violence since 1984 which resulted in clashes that began over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act on Sunday evening.

What’s the issue?

A key question now being raised is whether or not the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi can take any action to bring law and order under control. The answer is not a straightforward one, with many factors coming into play.

What the elected legislature in Delhi cannot do?

The NCT of Delhi, under Article 239 AA, has been given a special status.

It gives powers of law-making and administration to an elected legislature and the council of ministers. But, puts two subjects — public order and police — directly under the Union government, however, with exceptions- Two sections of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) —129 & 130 — give the Executive Magistrate certain powers relating to “unlawful assembly”.

Under these two limited powers, the Executive Magistrate, who reports to the Chief Minister, can issue orders relating to public security.

What is CrPC 129?
If a group is found in unlawful assembly under Section 129 CrPC, the Executive Magistrate can issue orders to these persons to disperse. If this fails, the magistrate can use the civil force — which is the police.

What is CrPC section 130?

If efforts under CrPC section 129 fail, the Executive Magistrate, under Section 130 CrPC, can call an officer of the armed forces of the Union to disperse the assembly. This section states that it can be invoked for “public security”.

However, this Section empowers the officer to decide, on his own, the manner in which the unlawful assembly has to be dispersed by forces under his command. 

How are these powers different from the powers of a full fledged state?

While public order and police are under the state list, the state government may request the Union government to make available armed forces to help restore public order.

Even in circumstances where public disorder is not so serious as to fall in the category of an “internal disturbance” as defined in Article 355 of the Constitution, the Union Government may accede to the request.

But, as per CrPC 130, except for the limited purpose of dispersing an “unlawful assembly” and arresting its members, neither the state government nor any authority under it has been conferred by the Constitution any legal right to call the armed forces while dealing with a public disorder or “internal disturbance”.

Also, the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution states that use of the armed forces in the maintenance of public order is outside the purview of the states.

Sources: Indian Express.