Preventive detention only to forestall public disorder: SC

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has ruled that the provision for preventive detention cannot be invoked over apprehension of law and order problems. Furthermore, it said a person can be detained only in cases where public order is directly affected.

What was the case?
  • The judgment came on an appeal filed by the wife of a man placed under preventive detention under the Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act, shortly after he was granted bail in a cheating case.
  • The man was alleged to have cheated people by claiming he is a High Court advocate and convinced them to invest money, promising good returns from the stock market.
  • Hence, the detention order stated that he was engaged in a white-collar offense and his free movement would hinder public order.
What did the Supreme Court say?
  • The detention of an individual under preventive detention law should be based on apprehensions that the concerned person is a threat to “public order” affecting the community at large. Mere ‘law and order’ problems such as indulging in cheating or criminal breach of trust would not be sufficient.
  • The state should not arbitrarily use preventive detention to deal with all “law and order” problems, which could be dealt with by ordinary law.
  • In all such cases, the court must ask one question in deciding its legality, i.e. was the ordinary law of the land sufficient to deal with the situation? If the answer is in the affirmative, the detention order will be illegal.
  • Moreover, preventive detention must fall within the four corners of Article 21 (due process of law). It must be read with Article 22 (safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention) and the statute in question.

Hence, the court canceled the preventive detention order and said that the State should have contested the bail order in a higher court rather than slapping an executive order of preventive detention on him on the ground that, if set free, he would cheat more people.

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