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Manipur Violence: What is a 'Shoot at Sight' Order?

  • Published
    8th May, 2023

The Manipur government had earlier issued a “shoot at sight" orders as violence in the state had spread to capital Imphal. 

What is a 'Shoot at Sight' Order?

  • In India, shoot-at-sight orders are a contentious and uncommon type of law enforcement.
  • The directives allow police or other security forces to shoot anyone who defies the orders without warning or even attempting to apprehend them.

When is a shoot and sight order issued?

  • Authorities issue them when they believe there is an imminent threat to public order or security and that the use of lethal force is required to prevent it.
  • Orders to ‘shoot at sight’ are typically granted for a short time and in specific places where there is a significant potential of violence.

What is the legal basis of such an order?

Under Sections 41-60 and 149-152 of the CrPC, 1973, a “shoot-at-sight" or shooting order may be issued in accordance with the legislative authorities relating to the arrest or prevention of offences or the disbandment of unlawful assemblies.

  • Section 46 (2) of CrPC: It authorises the use of force during an arrest. The law states that if a person “forcefully resists the attempt to arrest him or attempts to evade the arrest, such police officer or other person may use all means necessary to effect the arrest."
    • Limitation: Section 46(3), however, limits this executive power by stating that the provision does not grant the ability “to cause the death of a person who is not accused of an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life".
  • Section 81 of the IPC: “nothing is an offence merely by reason of its being done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause harm, if it is done without any criminal intention to cause harm, and in good faith for the purpose of preventing or avoiding other harm to person or property."
  • Section 144 of the CrPC: It authorises the employment of broad powers in dealing with urgent cases of “apprehended danger" or nuisance by issuing orders.
  • Section 144(3) of the Act authorises curfew orders to be issued in the case of a “specific individual," “persons residing in a particular place or area," or “the general public when frequenting or visiting a particular place or area." The executive frequently issues “shoot-at-sight orders" using the authority granted to it by Section 144.
  • Section 3(a) of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958, as amended by the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Amendment Act of 1972, gives the armed forces the authority to use force in “disturbed areas." A notification in the Official Gazette declaring an area “disturbed" may be issued by the “Governor of the State, the Administrator of that Union Territory, or the Central Government, as the case may be."
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