The Supreme Court on Monday threatened to pass strictures against the Telangana government if it failed to give plausible explanation as to why a man charged with stealing five saris in Hyderabad was detained for a year under a law meant for bootleggers, dacoits, drug offenders and land grabbers.
The man, through his wife, had moved the Supreme Court against his illegal detention.
“Let us say he has stolen one saree, two saree or three sarees. But, for that you arrest a person under prevention detention? What kind of people you are all? This way you will start arresting everybody,” said CJI.
Shocked at the arrest, a bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar said, “Preventive detention, for theft of five saris? Should we pass strictures? What’s going on in the state of Telangana?”
“Let us say he has stolen one sari, two saris or three saris. But, for that you put a person under prevention detention? What kind of people you are all? This way you will start arresting everybody,” the CJI asked the state counsel.
Telangana is a good state, he told the lawyer, giving him two weeks to explain.
The accused, Ch Eliah, has been in custody since March 19 last year under the Andhra Pradesh Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Dacoits, Drug Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic and Land Grabbers Act 1986. As per the law, a habitual offender is kept in custody for a year without any trial after the state advisory board confirms the detention.
In his brief submission, Telanagana’s counsel said Eliah was involved in three such incidents in a span of six months. The advisory board, headed by a retired judge of the state high court, had approved his detention, he added.
Eliah approached the top court after the high court refused to interfere with the board’s order. On the lawyer’s submission that the accused was a habitual offender, the bench noted that none of the FIRs on alleged thefts named Eliah. There were no witnesses who identified him.
“Yet, on the basis of three verbal FIRs you arrest and detain people? Is there some political rivalry? What’s happening?,” the CJI remarked.