An Indian court has reprimanded police for arresting a man they accused of drinking tea in a "suspicious" manner at one of the country's ubiquitous roadside stalls.

Vijay Patil was drinking tea in the western city of Kolhapur in February when he was arrested under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows an arrest to prevent someone imminently expected to commit a crime. Police said there was no "satisfactory explanation" for the 49-year-old's tea-drinking behaviour and "found his conduct suspicious", according to the court order.

But the Bombay High Court threw out the case earlier this month, describing the police motive as "bewildering".

"We were unaware that the law required anyone to give an explanation for having tea, whether in the morning, noon or night," said Judges G.S. Patel and S.C. Dharmadhikari in the order. "One might take tea in a variety of ways, not all of them always elegant or delicate, some of them perhaps even noisy. But we know of no way to drink tea 'suspiciously'."

The judges heard that Patil had a large number of criminal cases against him, but they pointed out that he had no convictions - "though even that would not have been justification enough" for his arrest.