Detention when not facing trial curtails liberties: SC

New Delhi, May 14 (IANS): The Supreme Court has said a person could not be detained for a period beyond the provisions of law, more so when he is not facing trial as it would amount to taking away that person's liberties.

The court noted that if a person is detained under the provisions of an act but is not facing trial, this "amounts to curtailment of his liberties and denial of civil rights. In such cases, whether continuous detention of such person is necessary or not, is to be assessed and reviewed from time to time," said the apex court bench of Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice N.V. Ramana said in their judgment last week.

The court said while quashing the detention order issued by the Andhra Pradesh government sending one Narendra Chowdari to preventive detention for 12 months in one go under the Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Dacoits, Drug Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders and Land Grabbers Act, 1986.

Section 3 of this act says a person could not be placed under preventive detention for a period not exceeding three months.

Chowdari was placed under detention Oct 5, 2013. He had 11 cases against him. The apex court order came on a petition by his wife Cherukuri Mani.

Setting aside his detention order, Justice Ramana, speaking for the bench, said: "Where the law prescribes a thing to be done in a particular manner following a particular procedure, it shall be done in the same manner following the provisions of law, without deviating from the prescribed procedure.

The court said: "When the provisions of Section 3 of the Act clearly mandated the authorities to pass an order of detention at one time for a period not exceeding three months only, the government order in the present case, directing detention of the husband of the appellant for a period of 12 months at a stretch is a clear violation of the prescribed manner and contrary to the provisions of law."

The government, the court said "cannot direct or extend the period of detention up to the maximum period of 12 months, in one stroke, ignoring the cautious legislative intention that even the order of extension of detention must not exceed three months at any one time."

Saying the government or competent authorities should not ignore the underlying principles while passing orders of detention or extending it from time to time, the court said: "Passing a detention order for a period of 12 months at a stretch, without proper review, is deterrent to the rights of the détenu."

Holding the government alone was conferred with the power to extend the period, beyond three months and each extension could not be more than three months, at a time, the court said "if the government intends to detain an individual under the Act for the maximum period of 12 months, there must be an initial order of detention for a period of three months, and at least, three orders of extension for a period not exceeding three months each."

It said the "legislature has specifically provided the mechanism 'Advisory Board' to review the detention of a person".

Holding the government order sending Chowdari to 12 months' detention straightway could not be sustained in law, the court rejected the Andhra Pradesh government plea for adjournment beyond the court's summer vacation, saying détenu has already undergone seven months' detention and that too without any review.

Noting the high court dismissed the plea of Chowdari's wife with a "cryptic order", the court said: "In our considered view, when habeas corpus writ petition is filed, even though the petitioner has not properly framed the petition and not sought appropriate relief, it is expected from the court to at least go into the issue and decide on merits."

"Normally, in such matters where liberty of a person is at stake, the courts would take a liberal approach in the procedural aspects. But unfortunately in the instant case, the high court has dismissed the writ petition at the threshold itself," the court said in its judgment.


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