Preventive detention is "serious invasion" of personal liberty: SC


A bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and JB Pardiwala made these observations as it quashed an order of preventive detention passed by the Tripura government dated November 12, 2021 and directed forthwith release of an accused for offences under the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988 (PIT NDPS).

Supreme Court of India / Photo: Mathrubhumi Archives

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said preventive detention is a serious invasion of personal liberty and therefore whatever little safeguards the Constitution and the law authorizing such action provide assume utmost importance and must be strictly adhered to.

A bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and JB Pardiwala made these observations as it quashed an order of preventive detention passed by the Tripura government dated November 12, 2021 and directed forthwith release of an accused for offences under the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988 (PIT NDPS).

"The preventive detention is a serious invasion of personal liberty and the normal methods open to a person charged with commission of any offence to disprove the charge or to prove his innocence at the trial are not available to the person preventively detained and, therefore, in prevention detention jurisprudence whatever little safeguards the Constitution and the enactments authorizing such detention provide assume utmost importance and must be strictly adhered to".

The court said that in view of the object of the preventive detention it becomes very imperative on the part of the detaining authority as well as the executing authorities to remain vigilant and "keep their eyes skinned but not to turn a blind eye" in passing the detention order at the earliest from the date of the proposal.

Any unreasonable delay unless satisfactorily explained throws a considerable doubt on the genuineness of the requisite subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority in passing the detention order and consequently render the detention order bad and invalid because the "live and proximate link" between the grounds of detention and the purpose of detention is snapped in arresting the detenu, it added.

The bench said that a question whether the delay is unreasonable and stands unexplained depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.

The bench noted that the proposal to take steps to preventively detain the appellant at the end of the Superintendent of Police addressed to the Superintendent of Police (C/S) West Tripura, Agartala is dated June 28, 2021.

It added that the proposal in turn forwarded by the Assistant Inspector General of Police (Crime) on behalf of the Director General to the Secretary, Home Department is dated July 14, 2021.

The top court said the order of detention is dated November 12, 2021 and there is no explanation worth the name why it took almost five months for the detaining authority to pass the order of preventive detention.

It said in the present case the circumstances indicate that the detaining authority after the receipt of the proposal from the sponsoring authority was indifferent in passing the order of detention with greater promptitude.

The court added that vital material and facts were withheld and not placed by the sponsoring authority before the detaining authority.

The bench said that in the case on hand, in both the cases relied upon by the detaining authority for the purpose of preventively detaining the accused, he was already ordered to be released on bail by the concerned Special Court.

The bench said that it is clear that in the case on hand at the time when the detaining authority passed the detention order, this vital fact, namely, that the bail was granted by the Special Court had not been brought to the notice and on the other hand, this fact was withheld and the detaining authority was given to understand that the trial in the criminal cases concerned was pending.

Accused Sushanta Kumar Banik had moved the top court challenging the order of the Tripura High Court dismissing his plea challenging the detention order passed by the state government. He was accused of the offences under PIT NDPS Act.

PTI

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