CHENNAI: Observing that protection of life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the constitution is extended even to persons who are undergoing imprisonment as convicted prisoners, the Madras High Court ordered the state to compensate two Nagapattinam-based women by paying each Rs 5 lakh as they were illegally detained under Goondas Act for 128 days.
A division bench of Justice S Vaidyanathan and Justice AD Jagadish Chandira passed the orders on disposing of two habeas corpus petitions filed by S Dhivya and Manokaran.
Dhivya’s mother S Sathiya , and Manokaran’s wife M Muthulakshmi was arrested by Nagapattinam police in December 2021 on charges of involvement in bootlegging activities. Later, the accused were detained under preventive detention in January 2022. The petitioners sought to quash the detention orders passed against the women.
When the case was taken up for hearing, the petitioner’s counsels submitted that even though the state advisory board on March 16 held that there is no sufficient evidence to detain the accused, the police revoked the order only on July 22 – the said action came about 128 days in delay.
Recording the submissions, the judges held that in a recent decision in the case of Bhola Kumhar vs. State of Chhattisgarh, 2022, the Apex Court has held that when a person is detained beyond a reasonable date it would be imprisonment or detention sans sanction of law.
“It would thus not only violate Article 19 (d) but also Article 21 of the Constitution of India and thereby hold that such a person is entitled to compensation in terms of money,” the bench ruled.
The bench also noted that taking a cue from the above judgments and having found that the detenue has been kept in illegal detention for 128 days.
“We direct the State to pay a sum of Rs 5 lakhs to the detenues towards compensation within 6 weeks. Such amount can be adjusted towards any amount which may be awarded to the detenue by way of damages in the event of the detenues filing any Civil Suit, ” the bench held.
The Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) M Babu Muthumeeran submitted that the delay was due to the two section officers with the prohibition and excise department and informed the court that they did not follow up on the file to revoke the order which was sent from the under-secretary to the prohibition and excise department minister.
However, the judges rejected the submissions stating that it is a classic case of bureaucratic lethargy and slumber, which has played a lot in depriving the personal liberty of a citizen.