J. Venkatesan

Offences not prejudicial to public order: Court

Bench orders that he be set at liberty

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has set aside a preventive detention order passed by the Tamil Nadu government in August 2007 against a person for his involvement in two land grabbing cases.

A Bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice H.S. Bedi said: “The facts of these cases have been carefully examined, and even assuming the allegations of these cases are true, even then, by no stretch of imagination, the offences committed by the detenu can be called prejudicial to public order. The detenu can be dealt with under the ordinary criminal law if it becomes imperative.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Bhandari said the court had, on several occasions, examined the concepts of law and order and public order. It was the potentiality of the act to disturb the even tempo of life of the community which would make it prejudicial to the maintenance of public order. The Bench said, “Merely on the ground that an accused in detention as an undertrial prisoner was likely to get bail, an order of preventive detention should not ordinarily be passed.”

Quoting an earlier judgment, the Bench said: “The contravention of law always affects order but before it can be said to affect public order, it must affect the community or the public at large. A mere disturbance of law and order leading to disorder is thus not necessarily sufficient for action [under the preventive detention law] but disturbances which subvert the public order are.”

K.K. Saravana Babu was detained under the Goondas Act on August 28, 2007 even as he was in jail in connection with the cases. The Madras High Court dismissed his habeas corpus petition in April this year. The present appeal is directed against this judgment.

Allowing his appeal, the Bench pointed out that the detenu’s three bail applications had been rejected and no bail application was pending. It said there was no imminent possibility of his being released on bail and it would not be appropriate to pass an order of preventive detention against him.

The Bench held that the detention order was arbitrary, illegal and unsustainable. Even assuming the allegation in both the cases were correct, then also no case of disturbance of public order had been made out. The Bench quashed the order and directed that he be set at liberty forthwith.