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A law and order issue does not necessarily attract the provisions of Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA) to book someone for disturbing public order, the Gujarat high court has ruled in an order made available Monday.

Setting free a woman, who was under detention for alleged bootlegging, the court held that the issues of law and order and public order are different.

The court further held that bootlegging, though an offence, could be said to be a law and order issue and not be held to be breach of public order and a person cannot be booked under PASA for bootlegging.

A court bench comprising Chief Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice J.B. Pardiwala noted this while delivering its judgment in the case of Artiben Sujani vs Commissioner of Police and others.

The majority of detentions under the provisions of PASA by police in Gujarat are of bootleggers. The court, however, held that ‘merely’ because a person is a bootlegger arrested multiple times for a similar offence does not mean he/she can be preventively detained under the provisions of PASA.

The bench took the view while quashing an order of Ahmedabad Police Commissioner to detain an alleged woman bootlegger from Ahmedabad.

The court noted that the issues of ‘law and order’ and ‘public order’ are different and mere disturbance of law and order leading to disorder is not necessarily sufficient ground for preventive detention of a person charging him with disturbing public order.

PASA provisions have been enacted to maintain public order in society and in Gujarat, the majority of detentions done under PASA pertain to bootlegging, the order made available Monday noted.

Citing Aarti’s case, the court held that the accused “…may be punished for the alleged offences committed by her but, surely, the acts constituting the offences cannot be said to have affected the even tempo of the life of the community…”

Aarti was detained under PASA in June 2010 on the grounds of four cases pending against her under the provisions of the Bombay Prohibition Act. And since then, she was under detention.

Quashing her detention order and setting her free, the high court observed that police did not substantiate its case that Aarti was a threat to public order while adding, “…the detaining authority has reached to the subjective satisfaction that the activities of the appellant as a ‘bootlegger’ have disturbed the public order”.

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