“Public safety” ordinarily means security of the public or their freedom from danger. In that sense, anything which tends to prevent dangers to public health may also be regarded as securing public safety. The meaning of the expression must, however, vary according to the context. In the classification of offences in the Penal Code, for instancce, Chap. XIV enumerates the “offences affecting the public health, safety, convenience, decency and morals”, and it apparently includes rash driving or riding on a public way (S. 279) and rash navigation of a vessel (S. 280), among others, as offences against public safety, while Chap. VI lists waging war against the Queen (S. 121), sedition (S. 124-A) etc. as “offences against the state”, because they are calculated to undermine or affect the security of the state, and Chap. VIII defines “offences against the public tranquillity” which include unlawful assembly (S. 141), rioting (S. 146,) promoting enmity between classes (S. 158A), affray (S. 159) etc. Although in the context of a statute relating to law and order “securing public safety” may not include the securing of public health, it may well mean securing the public against rash driving on a public way and the like, and not necessarily the security of the state. It was said that an enactment which provided for drastic remedies like preventive detention and ban on newspapers must be taken to relate to matters affecting the security of the state rather than trival offences like rash driving or an affray. But whatever ends the impugned Act may have been intended to subserve, and whatever aims its framers may have had in view, its application and scope cannot, in the absence of limiting words in the statute itself, be restricted to those aggravated forms of prejudicial activity which are calculated to endanger the security of the State. Nor is there any guarantee that those authorised to exercise the powers under Act will in using them discriminate between those who act prejudicially to the security of the State and those who do not.
9. The Government of India Act, 1935, nowhere used the expression “security of the State” though it made provision under S. 57 for dealing with crimes of violence intended to over throw the Government. While the administration of law and order including the maintenance of public order was placed in charge of a Minister elected by the people, the Governor was entrusted with the responsibility of combating the operations of persons who endangered the peace or tranquillity of Province” by committing or attempting to commit “crime” of violence intended to overthrow the Government.” Similarly, Art. 352 of the Constitution empowers the President to make a Proclamation of Emergency when he is satisfied that the security of India or any part of the territory thereof is threated by war or by external aggression or by internal disturbance.” These provisions recongnise that disturbance of public peace or transquility may assume such grave proportions as to threaten the security of the State.
10. As Stephen in his Criminal Law of England, Vol. II, p. 242 observes:
“Unlawful assemblies, riots, insurrections, rebellions, levying of war, are offences which run into each other and are not capable of being marked off by perfectly defined boundaries. All of them have in common on feature, namely, that the normal tranquillity of a civilised society is in each of the ceases mentioned disturbed either by actual force or at least by the show and threat of it.”
Though all these offences thus involve disturbances of public tranquillity and are in theory offences against pubic order, the difference between them being only a difference of degree, yet for the purpose of grading the punishment to be inflicted in respect of them they may be classified into different minor categories as has been done by the Penal Code. Similarly, the Constitution in formulating the varying criteria for permissible legislation imposing restrictions on the fundamental rights enumerated in Art. 19 (1), has placed in a distinct category those offences against public order which aim at undermining the security of the State or overthrowing it, and made their prevention the sole justification for legislative abridgement of freedom of speech and expression, that is to say, nothing less than eudangering the foundations of the State or threatening its overthrow could justify curtailment of the rights to freedom of speech and expression, while the right of peaceable assembly [sub cl. (b)] and the right of association [sub cl.(c)] may be restricted under cls. (3) and (4) of Art. 19 in the interests of “public order”, which in those clauses includes the security of the State. This differentiation is also noticeable in Entry No. 3 of List III (Concurrent List) of Sch. 7, which refers to the ‘Security’, of a State” and ‘‘Maintenance of public Order” as distinct subjects of legislation. The Constitution thus requires a line to be drawn in the field of public order or tranquillity marking off, more or less roughly, the boundary between those serious and aggravated forms of public disorder which are calculated to endanger the security of the State and the relatively minor breaches of the peace of a purely local significance treating for this purpose differences in degree as if they were differences in kind. [ AIR 1950 SC 124 : (1950) SCR 594 : (1950) CriLJ SC 1514 : (1950) SCJ 418 (SUPREME COURT OF INDIA)
Romesh Thappar Versus The State of Madras ]