The Supreme Court has ruled that a person cannot be detained under a preventive detention law so as to keep the detenue under perpetual custody, as authorities are bound to discharge their normal functions of investigating a crime and bring the accused to trial.
"Preventive detention involves detaining of a person without trial in order to prevent him/her from committing certain types of offences.
"But such detention cannot be made a substitute for the ordinary law and absolve the investigating authorities of their normal functions of investigating crime which the detenue may have committed.
"After all, preventive detention in most cases is for a year only and cannot be used as an instrument to keep a person in perpetual custody without trial," a bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice SS Nijjar ruled.
The apex court passed the order while directing release of Munagala Anjaiah, of Andhra Pradesh detained on February 15, 2011, under the Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Dacoits, Drug Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders and Land Grabbers Act, 1986.
The Ranga Reddy district collector in his detention order stated that the detenue was a bootlegger under Section 29(b) of the Act and recourse to normal legal procedure involved considerable time which was not an effective deterrence in preventing him from indulging in further "prejudicial activities."
It was mentioned that the detenue was involved in several cases of violation of the provisions of the Act involving illicit distillation of liquor.
The detention order challenged by his wife Munagala Yadamma was dismissed by the Andhra Pradesh high court, upon which she appealed in the apex court.
Anil Kumar Tindale, counsel for the detenue's wife, argued that the detaining authority had taken an easy way out by resorting to the Act, instead of investigating the cases against him under the AP Prohibition Act, 1995.
The State however, defended the action saying that since the detenue was allegedly a habitual offender and involved in several cases, the detention was justified.
Rejecting the plea, the apex court said, offences alleged against the appellant are of a nature which can be dealt with under the ordinary law of the land.
"Taking recourse to the provisions of preventive detention is contrary to the Constitutional guarantee enshrined in Articles 19 and 21 (right to liberty) of the Constitution and sufficient grounds have to be made out by the detaining authorities to invoke such provisions.
"The State has been granted the power to curb such rights under criminal laws, as also under the laws of preventive detention, which therefore, are required to be exercised with due caution as well as upon a proper appreciation of the facts as to whether such acts are in any way prejudicial to the interest and the security of the State and its citizens, or seek to disturb public law and order, warranting the issuance of such an order," the bench said citing its earlier judgements.
"No doubt the offences alleged to have been committed by the appellant are such as to attract punishment under the Andhra Pradesh Prohibition Act, but that in our view has to be done under the said law and taking recourse to preventive detention laws would not be warranted," it added.