Can’t detain a person on breach of law apprehension: Supreme Court
- Court ordered the immediate release of a Telangana resident who has been held for 10 months
An apprehension of possible breach of law and order cannot provide a “springboard” to invoke the preventive detention law and arrest a citizen, the Supreme Court said on Monday, ordering the immediate release of a 34-year-old Telangana resident who has been held for 10 months.
Banka Ravikanth has been in detention under the Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act 1986 on orders of the Cyberabad police commissioner in September 2020 after he secured bail in five criminal cases accusing him of cheating, criminal breach of trust and criminal intimidation under the Indian Penal Code.
The Telangana police reasoned that Banka Ravikanth’s detention was ordered because there was every possibility that he would commit similar offences, which would again certainly affect public order. The Telangana high court, which ruled on a petition by Ravikanth’s wife Banka Sneha Sheela, agreed with this argument and rejected her petition in March this year.
On Monday, the Supreme Court disagreed.
“It is clear that at the highest, a possible apprehension of breach of law and order can be said to be made out if it is apprehended that the detenu, if set free, will continue to cheat gullible persons. This may be a good ground to appeal against the bail orders granted or to cancel bail but certainly cannot provide the springboard to move under a preventive detention statute,” a bench of justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Hrishikesh Roy said on Monday.
Arguing for the petitioner, advocate Gaurav Agrawal said the detention order was issued nine months after the last FIR registered in December 2019 and showed no proximate connection between the acts complained and ground for detention.
The state government, represented by senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, submitted that Ravikanth was a habitual fraudster who “created fear amongst the gullible public”. Since he was likely to commit similar offences in future, it was important to preventively detain him as there was no deterrent available under any other law.
The bench, on a close reading of the detention order, said that the “reason for the said order is not any apprehension of widespread public harm, danger or alarm but is only because the detenu was successful in obtaining anticipatory bail/bail from the courts in each of the five FIRs.”
The bench noted that “mere contravention of law such as indulging in cheating or criminal breach of trust certainly affects ‘law and order’ but before it can be said to affect public order, it must affect the community or the public at large.” If a person accused of any crime is granted anticipatory bail/bail wrongly, the state can always appeal against the bail order granted or seek cancellation of bail, which, the court noted, was not done in the present case.