The Allahabad High Court has ordered the immediate release of a woman from the Nari Niketan in Amroha district, where she was detained for a month on the orders of the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM).
The woman, Kanchan Verma, and her friend, Nasir Ali, were detained by the police on April 27 under Section 151 (breach of peace) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) outside a school under Gajraula police station area of Amroha district. The woman is a teacher at the school.
According to reports, a mob had gathered outside the school when Verma’s parents tried to stop her from going with Ali, a married man. While the couple reportedly know each other for the last 12 years, her family opposed their relationship as they belong to different religions. Ali later submitted before the court that he would like to marry Verma.
The couple were produced before the SDM of Dhanaura area. The SDM sent Ali to judicial custody and Verma to Nari Niketan till further orders. Ali was later released on bail.
During her stay in Nari Niketan, Verma approached the high court with a habeas corpus petition, seeking her release on various grounds including restrictions on her from attending school, and being made to stay with juveniles in inhospitable conditions.
Passing the order on Tuesday, a division bench of Justices Tarun Agarwala and Amar Singh Chauhan said: “The right to life and personal liberty is the most precious right of a human being, which is governed by the rule of law. The Constitution is the rule of law. No one can rise above the rule of law in the Constitution. The executive cannot deprive a person of his life or personal liberty without authority of law.”
Criticising the SDM’s order, the court said: “We find that even after recording the statement of the petitioner that she is an adult, a divorcee and wants to live with a person of her choice, there was no occasion for the magistrate to detain her in a Nari Niketan. This order, in our opinion, is patently without any authority of law. We are of the opinion that personal liberty in such a high-handed manner cannot be curtailed merely on an apprehension, especially, when such an apprehension was not in existence. We are of the opinion that the liberty to move, mix, mingle, talk, share through company cannot be substantially curtailed and the action taken was totally violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.”
The court said there was nothing in the police report to justify apprehension of a law and order situation, although people from two religions were involved. It said Section 144 (prohibiting unlawful assembly on apprehension of breach of peace) of the CrPC could have been invoked if required.
The court directed the police to escort the woman to her parents’ house, adding that she was free to choose the next course of action.
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