This article mentions the key excerpts from the judgment at the High Court of J&K in Srinagar, that discusses the violation of law during the detention procedure of one Mr. Masaram Alam Bhat. The bench delves into the constitutional rights and due process of law while delivering a favourable judgment to Mr. Bhat.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR AT SRINAGAR
HCP No. 5 of 2012
Appellants: Masarat Alam
Respondent: State of J&K & Ors.
Decided On: 02.06.2012
Hon'ble Mr. Justice Hasnain Massodi, Judge
For Appellant/Petitioner/Plaintiff: Mr. M.A. Qayoom, Advocate
For Respondents/Defendant: Mr. Shabir Ahmad, Advocate
Disposition: Petition allowed
Criminal - Detention - Legality of - Section 8 of Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 - Petition filed against Order whereby Petitioner put under preventive detention under Section 8 of Act on ground that such Order was necessary to prevent detenue from acting in a manner prejudicial to 'Security of State - Held, Petitioner was re detained after earlier detention Order was quashed - There were no material before Detaining Authority to conclude that detenue had approached Court with application for grant of bail in his favour and his application was likely to be allowed - Grounds of detention obviously did not make mention of such application had been made, by or on behalf of detenue - There were therefore admittedly no material before Detaining Authority to rush to conclusion that detenue would be released on bail when detenue had not moved Court for grant of bail - Detention Order was liable to be quashed only on ground that there were no material before Detaining Authority to rush to conclusion that detenue would be let off, on bail wherein he was arrested and that instead of having recourse to ordinary law, extraordinary measure of preventive detention was required to be taken in matter - There were only minor additions and alterations with primary/main grounds of detention remaining un altered - It was well settled law that grounds of detention in support of a detention Order quashed by Court could not be used to pass a fresh detention Order - Petition allowed and impugned Order quashed
Hon'ble Mr. Justice Hasnain Massodi, Judge
"It is fallacy to regard fundamental rights as a gift from the State to its citizens. Individuals possess basic human rights independently of any Constitution by reason of the basic facts that they are members of the human race"
The Supreme Court in Rekha Vs. State of Tamil Nadu AIR (2011) SC 260 reiterated the principle;
"Our Constitution makers had lived through bitter years and seen an alien Government trample upon human rights which the country had fought hard to preserve. They believed like Jefferson that "an elective despotism was not the Government we fought for". And, therefore, while arming the Government with large powers to prevent anarchy from within and consequent from without, they took care to ensure that those powers were not abused to mutilate the liberties of the people."
The preventive detention and a democratic set up do not go hand in hand. The democracy has its edifice on Rule of Law and the Rule of Law mandates that a person can be deprived of his personal liberty only when he is facing a criminal charge or has been convicted by a competent Court, of an offence punishable under law. Where a person is deprived of his personal liberty as an under-trial he faces a criminal charge, there is an implicit condition that he has full and fair opportunity to insist that the charge is groundless and where trial notwithstanding such plea proceeds he has a fair opportunity to cross examine the witnesses, explain the material, if any, brought on the file against him and to adduce evidence in defence. A person placed in preventive detention and deprived of his personal liberty is not convicted by a Court of Law and remanded to prison to serve the sentence nor is a formal charge framed against him and he tried on such charge, and given an opportunity to deny the charge and set up his defence. A person on whom preventive detention is slapped is held in custody without charge or trial. The Detaining Authority deprives a person on whom preventive detention is slapped, on a mere suspicion that his apprehended activities are likely to prejudice 'security of the State' or 'public order'. The Detaining Authority has power to place a person under detention on his subjective satisfaction that the grounds exist to put such person under preventive detention. The Court lacks power to dive deep in to the facts to assess and evaluate as to whether the ground reasonably leads to such suspicion. This is the reason that Detaining Authority while exercising the powers under Detention Law is said to exercise, 'jurisdiction of suspicion'. The only safeguards that a person put under preventive detention as against the arbitrary exercise of the power under Preventive Detention Law are those guaranteed under Article 22 (5) Constitution of India and echoed in Preventive Detention Law. The first and foremost right of a detenue is to be, conveyed the grounds of detention that persuaded the Detaining Authority to pass detention order. The second valuable right promised under the aforesaid Constitutional and statutory rights is the right to be told that the detenue can represent against his detention to the Detaining Authority and the Government. The two Constitutional guarantees, in a way, supplement each other and when combined, mean a right of the detenue to represent against his preventive detention. Since the power to order preventive detention is by its nature repugnant to the core Constitutional concepts of Rule of Law, it is necessary that the preventive detention law is given a strict interpretation and even a slightest violation of the valuable rights guaranteed to a detenue is frowned upon and discouraged and the detention order quashed once when disregard of the constitutional and statutory safeguards is discernible from the record. The Apex Court almost at the dawn of the independence, highlighting importance of the Constitutional safeguards promised to a detenue in Dr. Ram Krishan Bhardwaj Vs. State of Delhi and Others (AIR 1953 SC 318) has observed;
"Preventive detention is a serious invasion of personal liberty and such meagre safeguards as the Constitution has provided against the improper exercise of the power must be jealously watched and enforced by the Court."
".The law is by now well settled that the detenue has two rights under Article 22(5) of the Constitution : (1) to be informed, as soon as may be of the grounds on which the order of detention is made, that is, the grounds which led to the subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority, and (2) to be afforded the earliest opportunity of making representation against the order of detention, that is to be furnished with sufficient particulars to enable him to make representation which on being considered may obtain relief to him."
"the laws of preventive detention are strictly construed, and a meticulous compliance with the procedural safeguards, however technical, is mandatory."
Earlier the Court in Abdul Latif Abdul Wahab Sheikh Vs. B.K. Jha and another (1987) 2 SCC 22 held:
"The procedural requirements are the only safeguards available to a detenue since the Court is not expected to go behind the subjective satisfaction of the detaining Authority. The procedural requirements are, therefore to be strictly complied with if any value is to be attached to the liberty of the subject and the Constitutional rights guaranteed to him in that regard."
The latest in series of decision on the subject has been Rekha's case(supra) wherein it is held;
"To prevent misuse of this potentially dangerous power the law of preventive detention has to be strictly construed and meticulous compliance with the procedural safeguards, however, technical, is, in our opinion, mandatory and vital the history of liberty is the history of procedural safeguards. These procedural safeguards are required to be zealously watched and enforced by the Court and their rigour can not be allowed to be diluted on the basis of the nature of alleged activities of the detenue."
The Supreme Court in a recent judgment reported as Yumman Ongbi Lembi Leima Vs. State of Manipur and others (2012) 2 SCC 176 has held;
".The personal liberty of an individual is the most precious and prized right guaranteed under the Constitution in part III thereof. The State has been granted the power to curb such rights under criminal laws as also under the laws of preventive detention, which, therefore, are required to be exercised with due caution as well as upon a proper appreciation of the facts as to whether such acts are in any way prejudicial to the interests and the security of the State and its citizens, or seek to disturb pubic law and order, warranting the issuance of such an order."
"It is all very well to say that preventive detention is preventive not punitive. The truth of the matter, though, is that in substance a detention order of one year (or any other period) is a punishment of one year's imprisonment. What difference is it to the detenue whether his imprisonment is called preventive or punitive."
The aforesaid detention order was questioned through the medium of petition registered as HCP 304/ 2011. The petition was accepted on 23.12.2011 and the detention order set aside with a direction to the respondents to release the petitioner from detention. However, the detenue was not able to get any benefit under the order dated 23.12.201.
"though, you are presently under custody but there is likelihood and you are being admitted to bail and in that eventuality there is well founded apprehension that you will again indulge in similar activities as mentioned above."
"24. wherever a person is to face or is facing criminal trial, the right course for the authorities is to make use of ordinary penal law which gives a right to authorities/ respondents to resist and oppose grant of bail to the accused"
Seeking support from law laid down by Supreme Court in Rekha's case, this Court observe;
The Supreme Court in Rekhas's case (supra) while holding that observations made in Haradhan Saha Vs. State of West Bengal: (1975)3 SCC 198, case cannot be regarded as unqualified statement that in every case that even if a person is liable to be tried in a criminal court for commission of a criminal offence, or is actually being so tried, that does not debar the authorities from passing a detention order under a preventive detention law, The Court reproduced the following observation made by the Supreme Court in Rekha's case:-
"Article 22(3) is only an exception to Article 21 and it is not itself a fundamental right. It is Article 21 which is central to the while chapter on fundamental rights in our constitution. The right to liberty means that before sending g a person to prison a trial must ordinarily be held given him opportunity of placing his defence though his lawyer. It follows that if a person is liable to be tried, or is actually being tried, for a criminal offence, the ordinary criminal law (Indian Penal Code or other penal statutes) will not be able to deal with the situation, then, and only then, can the preventive detention law be taken recourse to "
"13. Having carefully considered the submissions made on behalf of respective parties, were are inclined to hold that the extra-ordinary powers of detaining an individual in contravention of the provisions of Article 22(2) of the Constitution was not warranted in the instant case, where the grounds of detention do not disclose any material which was before the detaining authority, other 16 than the fact that there was every likelihood of Yumman Somendro being released on bail in connection with the cases in respect of which he had been arrested, to support the order of detention. Article 21 of the Constitution enjoins that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except, accordingly to procedure established by law. In the instant case, although the power is vested with the concerned authorities, unless the same are invoked and implemented in a justifiable manner, such action of the detaining authority ca not be sustained as, such a detention order is an exception to the provisions of Articles 21 and 22(2) of the Constitution."
"It is well settled law that when a detention order is quashed by the Court, the grounds of the order so quashed should not e taken into consideration, either as whole or in part, even along with fresh grounds of detention for drawing subjective satisfaction to pass fresh detention order. It is to be appreciated that once the Court sets aside the detention order, it nullifies the entire order. The Detaining Authority therefore cannot consider the ground that were relied upon to pas the earlier detention order or activities that were detailed in such grounds. The position may be different where the earlier detention order is revoked due to technical reasons. In such a situation the grounds of detention may be used to make fresh detention order after removal of technical impediment or loopholes. However, no such recourse is available where the earlier detention order is struck down by the Court as it sets at naught not only detention order but the grounds on which the detention order is based "