scorecardThe difference between lock down, curfew and Section 144
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The difference between lock down, curfew and Section 144

The difference between lock down, curfew and Section 144
IndiaIndia3 min read

  • A lock down is when there is a restriction on assembly but essential services are still available.
  • Section 144 is when assembly is prohibited under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • A curfew is when Section 144 is imposed along with essential services shut down.
  • Citizens cannot be arrested without cause during a lock down but can be booked under Section 188 during a curfew.
Entire country has been brought to a standstill but different words are being used to describe the situation in different states. So the terminology can get a little confusing. Each state has its own laws and is implementing measures depending on the resources it has.

Bhaskar Rao, the Commissioner of Police in Bengaluru, told India Today that lock down and curfew are one and the same thing.However, there’s a key difference between how the authorities can act in each situation.

Lock down



No passes required

Special pass required

Essential services


Only emergency services available


List of exemptions available

Very few exemptions

Mass gatherings

Prevents public gatherings

Can only gather to avail essential commodities during relaxation


Can lead to legal action

Strict legal action

In most states a full lock down has been implemented. This means that Section 144 has been imposed, but essential services are still available. In states where there is a curfew, only emergency services like hospitals are allowed to operate.

What is a lock down?
A lock down can be enforced by a Collector or Chief Medical Officer in their particular area under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. This gives them the power to restrict the assembly of 5 or more people in close quarters.

However, essential services like hospitals, banks, ATMs, grocery stores, vegetables, and milk shops will still be open. In some cities, hotels may also be allowed to operate and there are no restrictions on the media.

Under a lockdown, the police do not have the power to arrest anyone who is violating the lockdown without the court’s permission. They can issue a warning and advise the people to head home.

If the person gets adversarial, the police does have the right to arrest them under Section 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). If someone were to escape from quarantine, the authorities can book him under Section 271 of the IPC.

What is Section 144?
Section 144 of the IPC restricts the congregation of 5 or more people within a particular area. Under the law, anyone found in violation will be booked for disobeying a public servant under Section 188.

What is curfew?
Curfew is when the power is with the Collector and the Police Commissioner. In addition to Section 144, all essential services are also shut down. Aside from emergency services like hospitals — banks, ATMs, grocery stores, vegetables and milk shops will all be shut.

Only administration and police personnel are allowed on the street. Once the curfew is implemented, the district administration is exempt from action.

See also:
Coronavirus cases in Punjab spike to 23, IAS officers donate salaries

Grofers says its delivery agents were arrested during Janata curfew, led to a delay of 60,000 orders

Kerala Coronavirus cases reach 95 yet people are violating the lockdown