The Bombay high court has rapped the district magistrate of Dadra and Nagar Haveli for passing detention orders in a "casual and mechanical" manner and "without application of mind" and observed that “with great power comes great responsibility”.
A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite-Dere and Sharmila Deshmukh quashed three orders of November 2022 passed by the magistrate placing three persons under preventive detention.
The court also directed the Union Territory of Daman and Diu to pay ₹20,000 to each of the detainees within four weeks. The judges also expressed hope and trust that steps would be taken to conduct a workshop for the officers dealing with detention laws.
'Detention order passed in cavalier manner'
The order was passed on April 18, but the detailed copy was made available on Thursday. The bench said, “With great power comes great responsibility. Thus, greater the power, greater the responsibility.” Further it said that the detention orders were passed in a very casual and cavalier manner and reflect complete non-application of mind.
Under the detention law, a person is deprived of his or her personal liberty. Hence, while passing detention orders, it is the bounden duty of the authority to act responsibly and with circumspection and in accordance with law, the bench added. The detainees have been in custody since November 2022. The judges observed that this was nothing but "travesty of justice".
The HC was hearing two petitions challenging detention orders passed by the district magistrate of Dadra and Nagar Haveli under the Gujarat Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act.
Booked in false cases
First petition was by advocate Vishal Shrimali against whom a detention order was passed. The second petition was filed by one Sangeeta Rathod seeking quashing of the detention orders passed against her husband and son. It was claimed that all the detainees were social activists; because they raised their voice against illegal activities, they were booked in false cases. And based on these false cases, detention orders were passed.
“We find that the detention orders were passed in a very mechanical and cavalier manner. The case in hand is nothing but an abuse of the law of preventive detention,” the HC said while quashing the detention orders.
Preventive detention is an anticipatory measure and that the object of the law of preventive detention is not punitive but only preventive. It is resorted to only when the executive is convinced that detention is warranted to prevent the detainee from acting in illegal acts, it added.
"Under the detention law, a person's greatest of human freedoms i.e. personal liberty is deprived and hence, it is imperative that the laws of preventive detention are strictly construed," the HC noted.
“Where personal liberty is concerned, it is not permissible to take a generous view of the lapses and condone the same. In cases of preventive detention, strict adherence/observance of procedural safeguards is mandated, so that liberty of a person is not compromised by arbitrary exercise of power,” the court averred.