In a country governed by the rule of law, police excesses, whether inside or outside the jail, cannot be tolerated in the name of maintaining discipline or dealing with anti-national elements, the Supreme Court has said.
The court made this observation while hearing an appeal filed by the Maharashtra government against a Bombay high court order, which had held that jail authorities had used force against undertrial prisoners, including 2006 serial blasts accused.
The court had also asked the chief secretary of Maharashtra to initiate a disciplinary inquiry against all those involved in the incident.
The high court, in view of a report submitted by a sessions judge, held that in addition to departmental inquiry, if need be, criminal action be taken against the officers concerned, The court had also allowed the application filed by train blast accused Saeez Sohail Sheikh and others and held that the transfer of the accused persons from Arthur Road jail to three other jails in the state was illegal. The court directed that the prisoners be taken back to Mumbai.
After hearing the arguments justice TS Thakur of the apex court observed: "If anyone is found to have acted in breach of law or abused his position while exercising powers that must be exercised only within the parameters of law, the breach and the abuse can be punished."
The court, however, said that it "can't ignore the fact that the country today faces challenges and threats from extremist elements operating from within and outside India."
The court observed that those dealing with such elements at times have to pay a heavy price by sacrificing their lives. "The glory of the constitutional democracy that we have adopted, however, is that whatever be the challenges, the country's commitment to the rule of law remains steadfast," Thakur said.
SC has directed that the government treat the report submitted by the sessions judge as a preliminary inquiry and take a decision whether or not any further inquiry was needed.