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J&K and Ladakh HC places freedom of liberty at highest pedestal, cancels preventive detention of man

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Stating that the freedom of liberty was paramount for an individual, the Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court rejected the preventive detention order passed against a man, kept in jail on the ground that he was a hardcore criminal, who terrorised people in Jammu.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Mohammad Akram Chowdhary passed the order on a petition filed by one Sarpreet Singh, challenging the preventive detention orders passed against him by the Jammu Superintendent of Police.

The High Court said that personal liberty was one of the most cherished freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, adding that the Founding Fathers enacted the safeguards in Article 22 in the Constitution, so as to limit the power of the state to detain a person without trial, which may otherwise pass the test of Article 21, by humanising the harsh authority over individual liberty.

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The democracies governed by the rule of law, strictly interpret the power to detain someone on grounds of national security or public order.

The High Court further said In a case, however, when the individual liberty comes into conflict with an interest of the security of the state or public order, then the liberty of the individual must give way to the larger interest of the nation.

The petitioner sought quashing of detention order against him, claiming that it was in breach of Article 22(5) of the Constitution and provisions of the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act.

Singh contended that he only under knew Dogri language, but the authorities explained the grounds in English and Hindi, which he could not understand.

The plea pointed out that the detention orders were passed, when he was already in custody in connection with a criminal case.

In his affidavit, the Superintendent of Police said that the order was passed for maintenance of ‘public order’.

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The affidavit further mentioned that if he was let free, there was strong possibility of him scaring and terrorising the people of the area, as he is a hardcore criminal.
The officer stated that Singh’s detention under preventive law was only to keep him at bay as a precautionary measure, and not as punishment.
Justice Chowdhary noted that the detention cannot be sustained since Singh was already in custody, when the same was ordered.

The Court noted that the non-application of mind of the Detaining Authority was also explicit from the fact that even the detention order does not say anything with regard to the detention of the detenue in a criminal case, leaving apart to assign the compelling reasons to resort to order preventive detention.

Additional Advocate General Amit Gupta represented the state, while Advocate Jagpaul Singh appeared for the petitioner.

Case name: Sarpreet Singh vs Union Territory of J & K.

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