Underlining that “preventive detention is a serious invasion of personal liberty”, the Supreme Court on Friday ruled that safeguards laid down in the Constitution and laws authorising detention “must” therefore “be strictly adhered to”.
A bench of Chief Justice of India U U Lalit, and Justices Ravindra Bhat and J B Pardiwala said this while quashing the detention of a person under the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in NDPS Act-1988.
The judgment came on an appeal filed by the detenue, Sushanta Kumar Banik, challenging the June 1, 2022 Tripura HC order dismissing his petition challenging the legality and validity of the detention order passed by the Tripura government on November 12, 2021.
The bench referred to the 1982 SC decision in the ‘Ashok Kumar vs Delhi administration’ case which said “preventive detention is devised to afford protection to society. The object is not to punish a man for having done something but to intercept before he does it and to prevent him from doing”, and added that “in view of the above 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 and executing the detention order because any indifferent attitude on the part of the detaining authority or executing authority would defeat the very purpose of the preventive action and turn the detention order as a dead letter and frustrate the entire proceedings”.
It added that “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”.
The bench pointed out that its previous decisions go to indicate that “if there is unreasonable delay between the date of the order of detention and actual arrest of the detenue and in the same manner from the date of the proposal and passing of the order of detention, such 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 detenue”.
It added that in the instant case, “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 ‘live and proximate link’ between grounds of detention and purpose of detention stood snapped in arresting the detenue… the delay has not been explained in any manner”.
“If the appellant herein was ordered to be released on bail despite the rigours of…the NDPS Act, 1985, then the same is suggestive that the court concerned might not have found any prima facie case against him. Had this fact been brought to the notice of the detaining authority, then it would have influenced the mind of the detaining authority one way or the other on the question whether or not to make an order of detention,” the judgment added.