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Exploring Externment Proceedings under the Bombay Police Act, 1951

Externment is a mechanism aimed at prohibiting an individual from accessing a specific area for a defined duration owing to their potential to disturb the peace and order of that locality due to their past involvement in criminal activities. One of the primary reasons for criminal externment is to prevent further criminal activities by individuals who have a history of engaging in unlawful behavior. By removing such individuals from a specific area, authorities aim to disrupt their criminal activities and protect the community from potential harm.

Individuals who are involved in activities that disturb public order, such as violence, gang-related offenses, or organized crime, may be externalized to maintain peace and tranquillity in the affected area. Externment helps authorities control situations where there is a risk of unrest or social instability. Externment may be necessary to protect victims of crime and witnesses who fear retaliation or intimidation from perpetrators. Removing criminals from the vicinity of their victims or potential witnesses can ensure their safety and encourage them to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement.

The word extern is derived from the Latin word 'externus', meaning outward. Ancient Hindu texts provided for 'nishkasan' 'bahishkasan' (banishment) by the king, of unsocial elements like thieves, corrupt government officials, persons practicing witchcraft, gamblers, corrupt judges, and manufacturers of counterfeit coins, etc., with the avowed purpose of oppression of 'wicked living by foul means.[1] Externment as a time-worm method of controlling crime and rowdyism in urban areas is far too well known. During colonial rule in India, externment, also known as banishment or exile, was a common practice used by the British colonial authorities as a tool for maintaining

law and order, suppressing dissent, and consolidating their control over the Indian population. The British administration implemented various laws and regulations to regulate and enforce the practice of externment across different regions of colonial India. One of the key laws enabling the practice of externment during colonial rule was the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1861,[2] which provided legal provisions for the arrest, detention, and expulsion of individuals deemed to be threats to public order or security.

Section 55 of the CrPC empowered colonial administrators to issue orders of externment against individuals suspected of engaging in criminal activities, disturbing public peace, or posing a threat to colonial authority. To control the criminal activities of habitual offenders in a tribe, Britishers enacted acts like the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871,[3] which were used to expel habitual offenders from identified tribal groups from their dominated areas.

The main objective behind commencing externment procedures was to distance offenders from the environments where they previously engaged in criminal acts, thereby safeguarding specific areas or district form potential criminal offences by criminals like habitual offenders, as externment would sever their link with the normal area of their criminal act. The externment powers are given to the police in all Indian states. To maintain public security in the state.

To control the activities of habitual offenders, the following are some examples of acts that contain provisions for the externment of offenders:
  • The Maharashtra Police Act (MPA) 1951 Section 5, 56[4]
  • Delhi police act 1976 section 47
  • The Punjab Security of the State Act, 1953, Section 7 sub-section (1), (2), (3), (4)[5]
  • Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act 1947 Section 2,3, and 4,[6]
  • The Karnataka Police Act, 1963 Section 55,56,57 and 58,[7]
  • Madhya Pradesh RajyaSuraksha Adhiniyam, or State Security Act, of 1990
  • The Uttar Pradesh Control of Goondas Act, 1970. Sections 3,4, and 5

Provision for externment in Bombay Police Act, 1951.
In this blog, we will be dealing with externment proceedings in the Bombay Police Act, 1951 specifically. The Bombay Police Act was enacted in 1951. This legislation governs the operations and structure of the police force in the State of Bombay, providing a legal framework for establishing its powers, duties, and regulations in the combined state of Maharashtra and Gujarat (previously State of Bombay). After independence and the reorganization of states in 1960, both states renamed the act in the respective state names, i.e., the Maharashtra Police Act and the Gujrat Police Act. The Act provides provisions for our topic in sections 55, 56, 57, 57-A, 58, 59, 60, and 61.

Section 56 specifically addresses the process of externment, granting the authority to extern any individual. This authority is vested in the commissioner of police for greater Bombay and in the District Magistrate and sub-divisional magistrate for other areas. Individuals whose actions pose a threat to public safety or property, or who are suspected of engaging in criminal activities involving violence or offenses outlined in the Indian Penal Code of 1860, may be subjected to externment.

Additionally, if witnesses are unwilling to testify due to concerns for their safety, externment may be considered. Furthermore, individuals may be externed if their continued presence in an area is deemed likely to cause an outbreak of epidemic disease. The officer may issue a written directive or announce the order publicly, requiring the individual to leave the specified area within the jurisdiction of the district or districts for a period not exceeding two years.[8]

Prior to externing an individual, a notice must be served on the proposed externee as per section 59 of the act. This notice should outline the general nature of the allegations against them and afford them a reasonable opportunity to provide an explanation. It must reference the movements or actions of the proposed externee and indicate how they have caused or may cause harm or danger to persons or property. The externment proceedings are largely precautionary and based on suspicion. Whether or not an individual should be externed depends on the subjective satisfaction of the relevant authority, as these provisions are intended for special cases that cannot be addressed under ordinary law.

Therefore, the allegations in the notice should be specific enough to inform the proposed externee about the locality and period of alleged misconduct. The proposed externee has the right to request the examination of witnesses and to be represented by an advocate when appearing before the officer to provide their explanation and examine witnesses. Before issuing an externment order, the individual under section 56 must be given the opportunity to explain the circumstances against them and present evidence. Any person aggrieved by an externment order under section 56 may appeal to the state government within thirty days, and the state government must provide a reasonable opportunity for the appellant to be heard, either in person or through a legal representative.[9]

Furthermore, section 61 talks about order passed by District Magistrate, sub. Divisional Magistrate or State Government shall not be called in question in any court except on the ground that the authority making the order or any officer authorised by it had not followed the procedure laid down in sub-section (1) of Section 59, and that there was no material before the office concerned upon which it could have based its order on the ground that said authority was not of opinion that witnesses were unwilling to come forward to give evidence in public against the person in respect of whom an order was under Section 56.[10]

The reasons for externment must not be arbitrary and must fulfil the legal criteria outlined in the section. Excessive orders may be overturned, as they impose an unreasonable restraint on the personal liberty of the externee, which should be commensurate with the circumstances of the case. The division bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Balu V/s. D.M. Pandharpur, 1969 Mh LJ 378 held: -

"As regards the last point, it is primarily for the externing authority to decide how best the extrnment order can be made effective, so as to subserve its real purpose. How long, within the statutory limits of two years fixed by section 58, the order shall operate and what territories, within the statutory limitations of Section 56 it should extend, are matters which must depends for to collect in the externment proceedings."[11]

Externment is necessary to uphold social order in society, as relying solely on penal laws is insufficient to ensure peace. The practice of externment under the Bombay Police Act, 1951,[12]and similar with laws in other states; is a significant tool used by authorities to maintain public order, prevent criminal activities, and protect the safety and welfare of the community. Externment proceedings are initiated against individuals whose movements or actions are deemed to pose a threat to public peace, safety, or public order.

These proceedings involve a careful consideration of evidence and legal requirements, including the issuance of notices, opportunities for the accused to present their defence, and judicial review of the exterment orders. Externment powers shall be used in accordance with Article 19(1)(d), 19(1)(e) and 21 of the Indian Constitution.[13] Overall, while externment remains a contentious issue in legal discourse, its judicious and lawful implementation can contribute to the maintenance of law and order, protection of public welfare, and promotion of social harmony in society. As such, it is essential for policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and judicial authorities to uphold the rule of law and respect individual rights while exercising their powers under externment laws.

  1. Volume 11, Kalyan Rudra, D.R.Puri, Y.Vaikuntha, R.Deb, S.M. Edmond, Operation of special laws relating to externment of bad characters, Journal of The Indian Law Institute, 1969,
  2. Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1861
  3. Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) of 1871
  4. Bombay Police Act , 1951 Act No 22 of 1951 of Maharashtra [Hereinafter "Police Act"]
  5. The Punjab Security of the State Act, 1953, � 7 sub-section (1), (2), (3), (4)
  6. Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act 1947 Assam Acy No.5 of 1947
  7. The Karnataka Police Act, 1963 Act No.4 of 1963 � 55,56,57,58.
  8. Police Act, supra � 56
  9. A.B. Puranik, The Maharashtra Police Act, 1951, CTJ Publication 6th edition 2016
  10. Bombay Police Act, Supra, 4
  11. Balu V/s. D.M. Pandharpur, 1969 Mh LJ 378
  12. Bombay Police Act, supra-4
  13. India Const. art. 19(1) (d), 19(1)(e) and 21
Written By: Chetan Bhosale - Government Law College, Mumbai

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