IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS DATED: 7.11.2007 CORAM THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE P.D.DINAKARAN AND THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE R.REGUPATHI H.C.P.No.1151 of 2007 Dilli Babu .. Petitioner Vs. 1. The State of Tamilnadu rep. by its Secretary Prohibition and Excise Department Fort St.George, Secretariat, Chennai-9. 2. The District Magistrate and District Collector Kancheepuram District Kancheepuram. .. Respondents PRAYER: Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to issue Habeas Corpus as stated therein. For Petitioner : Mr.A.S.Chakravarthy For Respondents : Mr.M.Babu Muthu Meeran Addl. Public Prosecutor O R D E R
(Order of the Court was made by P.D.DINAKARAN,J.)
The second respondent herein clamped an order of detention as against the petitioner, as the said authority arrived at the subjective satisfaction that the said detenu is a Goonda and he has to be detained under Section 3(1) of the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Forest Officers, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Sand Offenders, Slum Grabbers and Video Pirates Act, 1982 (Tamil Nadu Act 14 of 1982).
2.1. The order of detention dated 24.3.2007 came to be passed by the second respondent on the basis of the ground case complaint of which was given by one Sankar. According to the complainant, who is an auto driver, on 3.3.2007, when he was returning after dropping some passengers, the detenu intercepted and waylaid his auto at around 0100 Hours and asked him for money. As the complainant refused to give money, the detenu took a sharp knife, placed it on the neck of the complainant and robbed Rs.350/- from his shirt pocket. The nearby public gathered to catch the detenu, but he threatened to kill the public and ran away from the place. On receipt of the complaint a case was registered in Crime No.212 of 2007 for the offences punishable under Sections 341, 506(ii) and 394 IPC. The detenu, after investigation, was arrested on 4.3.2007, he admitted his offence.
2.2. Apart from the above, the detaining authority also took note of the eleven adverse cases pending against the detenu, viz., Crime Nos.264, 266 and 270 of 2005 and 183, 192, 204, 205 and 206 of 2007 on the file of Kanchi Taluk Police Station for the offences punishable under Sections 379, 457 and 380 IPC and Crime Nos.660 of 2005, 501 and 502 of 2006 on the file of Siva Kanchi Police Station for the offences punishable under Sections 380 IPC.
2.3. The detaining authority, having satisfied that the detenu is indulging in activities which are prejudicial to maintenance of public order, passed the impugned order.
3. Challenging the said detention, the detenu himself has come forward with the present Habeas Corpus Petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus to call for the records pertaining to BDFGISSV No.22 of 2007, dated 24.3.2007, to quash the same and to further direct the respondents to produce the petitioner, detained in Central Prison at Puzhal, Chennai, before this Court and to set him at liberty.
4. Heard Mr.A.S.Chakravarthy, learned counsel for the petitioner and Mr.M.Babu Muthu Meeran, learned Additional Public Prosecutor for the respondents.
5. The only contention advanced by the learned counsel for the petitioner is that there is considerable delay in considering the representation and the same has rendered the detention illegal.
6.1. Before delving into the issue relating to the delay as contended above, it would be apt to refer the law on the point.
6.2. Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India suggests that the obligation of the government is to offer the detenu an opportunity of making a representation against the order, before it is confirmed according to the procedure laid down under the relevant provisions of law, vide K.M. Abdulla Kunhi v. Union of India, (1991) 1 SCC 476 .
6.3. The right to representation under Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India includes right to expeditious disposal by the State Government. Expedition is the rule and delay defeats mandate of Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India, vide Ram Sukrya Mhatre v. R.D. Tyagi, 1992 Supp (3) SCC 65.
6.4. Any inordinate and unexplained delay on the part of the Government in considering the representation renders the detention illegal, vide Tara Chand v. State of Rajasthan, (1980) 2 SCC 321 and Raghavendra Singh v. Supdt., Distt. Jail, (1986) 1 SCC 650.
6.5. It is a constitutional obligation of the Government to consider the representation forwarded by the detenu without any delay. Though no period is prescribed by Article 22 of the Constitution for the decision to be taken on the representation, the words as soon as may be in clause (5) of Article 22 convey the message that the representation should be considered and disposed of at the earliest. But that does not mean that the authority is pre-empted from explaining any delay which would have occasioned in the disposal of the representation. The court can certainly consider whether the delay was occasioned due to permissible reasons or unavoidable causes. If delay was caused on account of any indifference or lapse in considering the representation, such delay will adversely affect further detention of the prisoner. In other words, it is for the authority concerned to explain the delay, if any, in disposing of the representation. It is not enough to say that the delay was very short. Even longer delay can as well be explained. So the test is not the duration or range of delay, but how it is explained by the authority concerned. Even the reason that the Minister was on tour and hence there was a delay of five days in disposing of the representation was rejected by the Apex Court holding that when the liberty of a citizen guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is involved, the absence of the Minister at head quarters is not sufficient to justify the delay, since the file could be reached the Minister with utmost promptitude in cases involving the vitally important fundamental right of a citizen, vide Rajammal v. State of T.N., (1999) 1 SCC 417.
7. In the instant case, the impugned order of detention came to be passed on 24.3.2007. A representation was made to the Government on 20.6.2007 and the same was received by it on 25.6.2007. Parawise remarks were called for from the detaining authority on 26.6.2007. After obtaining the remarks of the Sponsoring Authority, the detaining authority sent a report to the Government on 3.7.2007 and the same was received by the Government on 4.7.2007. The file was submitted for consideration of the Officers on 5.7.2007. The Under Secretary and the Additional Secretary considered the file on 6.7.2007. The Hon’ble Minister for P.W.D. and Law dealt with the file on 9.7.2007. But, the rejection letter was prepared only on 16.7.2007, viz., after seven days. Even though 14.7.2007 and 15.7.2007 happen to be public holidays, still a delay of 5 days exists. This delay was highlighted by the learned counsel for the petitioner. There is no convincing reply on behalf of the State for the said delay. We find some force as well as substance in this contention. We fail to understand as to why the matter was delayed for five days (excluding public holidays). There is absolutely no explanation for this delay.
8. At this juncture, a reference to the decision of the Apex Court in Kundanbhai Dulabhai Sheikh v District Magistrate, Ahmedabad, (1996) 3 SCC 194 is apposite:
“In spite of law laid down above by this Court repeatedly over the past three decades, the Executive, namely, the State Government and its officers continue to behave in their old, lethargic fashion and like all other files rusting in the Secretariat for various reasons including red-tapism, the representation made by a person deprived of his liberty, continue to be dealt with in the same fashion. The Government and its officers will not give up their habit of maintaining a consistent attitude of lethargy. So also, this Court will not hesitate in quashing the order of detention to restore the liberty and freedom to the person whose detention is allowed to become bad by the Government itself on account of his representation not being disposed of at the earliest.
9. That apart, it is a settled law that there should not be supine indifference, slackness or callous attitude in considering the representation. Any unexplained delay in the disposal of representation would be a breach of the constitutional imperative and it would render the continued detention impermissible and illegal, vide K.M. Abdulla Kunhi v. Union of India, (1991) 1 SCC 476 .
The delay of five days which stands unexplained would fatalise the detention attracting Article 22 of the Constitution of India and therefore, the petition must succeed and the same is ordered as prayed for. The detention order dated 24.3.2007 is set aside. The detenu is directed to be set at liberty forthwith unless his custody is required in connection with any other case.
Index : Yes/No
Internet : Yes/No
1. The Secretary to Government
State of Tamilnadu
Prohibition and Excise Department
Fort St.George, Chennai 9.
2. The District Magistrate
and District Collector
3. The Public Prosecutor
High Court, Madras.
H.C.P.No.1151 of 2007