26 Oct 2010

Reasonable basis for detention must: Supreme Court

The Constitution of India guarantees right of life and liberty to all the persons within the territory of India. This coupled with the fundamental rights of freedom of movement, freedom of speech etc. available to all the citizens implies that the Government must not abridge the free interaction of an individual enjoying these rights. However certain exceptions, such as threat to security of  State or maintenance of law and order etc. require the State to take preemptive action. On such grounds the Courts have upheld the detention of individuals upon the strict observance of the conditions in the laws providing such detention.

The Supreme Court in a recent decision, observing that validity of detention order would be examined closely, declared that there must be a reasonable basis for requiring detention of an individual and inter alia observed as under to this effect;
15) To decide the correctness or otherwise of the detention order, two issues of importance arise before this Court. The first is, regarding the documents and material on which reliance was placed by the detaining Authority in passing the detention order. Secondly, with those materials, the detaining authority was justified in arriving at a finding that the detenu should be detained under the National Security Act without any trial. In matters of this nature, this Court normally will not go into the correctness of the decision as such but will only look into decision making process. Judicial review, it may be noted, is not an appeal from a decision but review of the manner in which the decision was made. The purpose of review is to ensure that the individual receives a fair treatment.
16) Some of the decisions of this Court may be of relevance in determining in what manner such subjective satisfaction of the Authority must be arrived at, in particular on Section 3(2) of the National Security Act. In Fazal Ghosi v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (1987) 3 SCC 502, this Court observed that: 
“The District Magistrate, it is true, has stated that the detention of the detenus was effected because he was satisfied that it was necessary to prevent them from acting prejudicially to the maintenance of public order, but there is no reference to any material in support of that satisfaction. We are aware that the satisfaction of the District Magistrate is subjective in nature, but even subjective satisfaction must be based upon some pertinent material. We are concerned here not with the sufficiency of that material but with the existence of any relevant material at all.” 
17) In Shafiq Ahmed v. District Magistrate, Meerut, (1989) 4 SCC 556, this Court opined :- 
“Preventive detention is a serious inroad into the freedom of individuals. Reasons, purposes and the manner of such detention must, therefore, be subject to closest scrutiny and examination by the courts.” 
This Court further added:
“…there must be conduct relevant to the formation of the satisfaction having reasonable nexus with the action of the petitioner which are prejudicial to the maintenance of public order. Existence of materials relevant to the formation of the satisfaction and having rational nexus to the formation of the satisfaction that because of certain conduct "it is necessary" to make an order "detaining" such person, are subject to judicial review.” 
18) In State of Punjab v. Sukhpal Singh, (1990) 1 SCC 35, this Court held:
“…the grounds supplied operate as an objective test for determining the question whether a nexus reasonably exists between grounds of detention and the detention order or whether some infirmities had crept in.” 
19) In State of Rajasthan v. Talib Khan, (1996) 11 SCC 393, this Court observed that:
“…what is material and mandatory is the communication of the grounds of detention to the detenu together with documents in support of subjective satisfaction reached by the detaining authority.” 
20) What emerges from these rulings is that, there must be a reasonable basis for the detention order, and there must be material to support the same. The Court is entitled to scrutinize the material relied upon by the Authority in coming to its conclusion, and accordingly determine if there is an objective basis for the subjective satisfaction. The subjective satisfaction must be two fold. The detaining authority must be satisfied that the person to be detained is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of the public order and the authority must be further satisfied that it is necessary to detain the said person in order to prevent from so acting.
22) We are conscious of the fact that the grounds stated in the order of detention are sufficient or not, is not within the ambit of the discretion of the court and it is the subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority which is implied. However, if one of the grounds or reasons which lead to the subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority under NS Act, is non-existent or misconceived or irrelevant, the order of detention would be invalid.

No comments: