The Madras High Court Bench here on Tuesday quashed the preventive detention order of a habitual offender involved in nine criminal cases.

The court held that it was constrained to interfere with the order due to “irresponsible” conduct of a District Collector who had passed the detention order but failed to submit his remarks on time to a representation made by the accused.

Allowing a habeas corpus petition filed by the accused Siva alias S. Prabakaran (24) of Pudukottai, a Division Bench comprising Justice A. Selvam and Justice V.S. Ravi held that they had no choice but to set aside the detention order since the Collector had not given tenable reasons for the exorbitant delay of eight days in submitting his remarks to the Home Secretary.

The judges pointed out that the petitioner was facing a number of cases under Sections 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 379 (theft), 380 (theft in dwelling house), 392 (robbery), 457 (house breaking by night), 511 (punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment) of the Indian Penal Code.

The cases against him were pending before the police stations in Aranthangi, Karaikudi North, Arimalam and Pudukottai Town. Hence, the Pudukottai Collector passed an order on October 25, 2013, detaining him under the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug Offenders, Forest Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Sand Offenders, Slum Grabbers and Video Pirates Act, 1982.

Later, the petitioner made a representation on December 14, 2013. The Home Secretary received it on December 20, 2013, and called for remarks from the Collector on December 23. But the latter did not reply until January 8 despite the Secretary sending two reminders on January 2 and 7.

“Totally eight working days had passed by. But the respondents have not given any plausible explanation with regard to the delay. The Collector has adopted lethargic as well as spasmodic attitude in submitting remarks. Therefore, it is quite clear that due to desultory conduct of the Collector, the delay has occurred. Even though the petitioner is a habitual property offender, due to irresponsible and inert conduct of the Collector, the delay of eight days has also not been explained on the side of the respondents,” the judges added.

More In: Madurai