Difference Between Public Order and Law and Order -

Public Order vs Law vs Order

At first glance, public order and law and order look like same concepts and people are tempted to use them interchangeably. However, a recent ruling by a court in India has said that public order and law ands order are different terms and the two cannot be equated. Let us take a closer look at the two terms and how they differ from each other for the benefit of the readers and also for those who are responsible for maintaining peace and law and order.

Law and order is a general term and is taken to be for a whole area. On the other hand, public order is a duty imposed upon an official from the administration, usually the District Magistrate whenever there is a breach of peace and public calm in a particular place in the district at any given point of time. As such it can be assumed that public order is temporal in nature whereas law and order is a continuous, ongoing term. For example a District Magistrate can make an analysis of the situation of law and order in the district, but he has to rush on the spot to maintain public order in any place where law and order has been breached. Some examples where this can happen are communal riots or caste clashes.

In a recent judgment, the Gujarat High Court set free a woman, detained on charges of bootlegging. The court was of the view that the issues of law and order and public order are different and the provisions of Anti Social Activities Act to book someone for disturbing law and order are invalid as PASA can be applied where there is a breach of public order only. The court held that though bootlegging is an offense, it is an issue pertaining to breach of law and order and the provisions of PASA do not apply and the person cannot be booked under PASA for bootlegging. The court observed that bootlegging cannot be assumed to be affecting the tempo of the life of the society.

In brief:

• Though law and order and public order are terms that are similar in meaning, law and order is a general term that applies to a place or area on the whole while public order refers to a situation of breach of law and order at a particular place at any given time.

• Thus law and orders is a continual, ongoing term whereas public order is more temporal in nature.

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