High Court says, Scope of habeas corpus pleas limited

The Madras High Court has made it clear that the scope of habeas corpus petitions is limited and said the extraordinary jurisdiction of the constitutional courts cannot be invoked for dealing with such missing cases, where there is no “strong suspicion” of illegal detention.

A habeas corpus plea is a petition which is filed to ensure a person under arrest is brought before a court which will determine whether the detention is legal.

“It is a condition precedent that a person filing a habeas corpus petition should establish that there is a prima facie case of illegal detention or at least a suspicion in respect of such illegal detention,” a division bench of Justices S M Subramaniam and S Ramathilagam said recently.

“In the absence of any of these ingredients, no habeas corpus petition can be entertained under Article 226 of the Constitution,” it said.

The police must be used potentially to trace out the cases, where there is a genuine allegation of illegal detention, and in the event of such a relief has been sought for by the petitioners in these kinds of habeas corpus petitions, it said.

The court passed the order while dismissing a habeas corpus plea moved by Kalaiarasi seeking a direction to trace her husband by filing police complaint six years after her husband left home.

Fundamental rights like right to free movement and personal liberty should be co-related. Personal liberty must have a cogent and harmonious understanding in respect of the freedom to move anywhere across the country, it said.

A person, who voluntarily moves out of home cannot be treated to be in illegal custody for moving habeas corpus petitions, the bench said.

When there is no suspicion of illegal detention, then such cases are to be dealt as regular cases by the competent court of law, the bench added.

Pointing out that many police personnel were wasting their time by travelling across the country “under the guise of man/woman missing cases”, the bench said, “It causes lots of concern and expenditure to the state ex-chequer.

This apart, the efforts taken without any basis, causes a concern for prosecution and to the investigating authorities.

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