Source: This post is based on the article “Fundamental Rights to Reside and to Move About Freely” published in The Indian Express on 28th August 2021.
What is the news?
The Supreme Court has held that the power of the State to pass an externment order or a direction barring certain people entry to specified areas should be exercised only in “exceptional cases”.
The observation by a SC bench came while setting aside an externment order against a journalist and social worker issued by the district authorities in Amravati city, Maharashtra.
- Present case: The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone-1, Amravati City, had passed the externment order under Section 56(1)(a)(b) of the Maharashtra Police Act, 1951, directing journalist Rahmat Khan not to enter or return to Amravati City or Amravati Rural District for one year from the date on which he leaves or is taken out. Khan had been filing applications under the Right to Information Act, seeking information from authorities on alleged illegalities in the disbursement of funds to various madrassas.
What does externment mean?
The word ‘extern’ is derived from the Latin root ‘externus’, meaning outward. It is a pretty old method of controlling crime in ancient India, where unwanted elements were banished from a certain geographical area. In modern India, the provisions for providing the power of externment were enshrined in various statutes such as The Bombay Police Act (MPA), 1951, that subsequently changed to Maharashtra Police Act (MPA).
- The principle of externment is to protect an area or areas of districts from the probable danger of the commission of offenses by known criminals.
- The logic being that banishing a criminal from his area of operation would sever his link with the normal area of his criminal activities and reduce his criminal propensity in general.
In cities, the commissioner of police has the power to extern a criminal while a sub-divisional magistrate is empowered with externment duties in districts.
SC made the following observations:
- The drastic action of externment should only be taken in exceptional cases, to maintain law and order in a locality and/or prevent the breach of public tranquillity and peace.
- Externment orders have their use in maintaining law and order. However, they cannot be employed as a vindictive or retaliatory measure.