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Inordinate and Unexplained Delay in Considering Representation by Government Renders Detention Order Illegal: Madras High Court

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A Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution was filed in the Madras High Court to declare the detention order of the husband of the petitioner to be illegal and against the fundamental right to liberty given under Article 21.

The Madras High Court on October 16th, 2020 declared in the case of Sangeetha Vs. State of Tamil Nadu & Ors., that the detention order was passed with an inordinate and unexplained delay of considering the representation of the detenu renders the detention illegal.

Brief Facts of the case

The detenu was detained by the second respondent (police commissioner) holding him to be a “Goonda”, as contemplated under Section 2(f) of Tamil Nadu Act 14 of 1982. The Detention Order in question was passed on 25th February 2020. The petitioner made a representation on 24th June 2020. Thereafter, remarks were called for by the Government from the Detaining Authority on 30.06.2020. The remarks were duly received on 08.07.2020. Thereafter, the Government considered the matter and passed the order rejecting the petitioner’s representation on 23.07.2020.

Petitioner’s Arguments

The contention of the petitioner was that there was a delay of 8 days in submitting the remarks by the Detaining Authority, of which 2 days were Government Holidays, and hence there was an inordinate delay of 6 days in submitting the remarks. 

It was further contended by the petitioner that the remarks were received on 08.07.2020 and there was a delay of 14 days in considering the representation by the Hon’ble Minister for Electricity, Prohibition and Excise Department after the Deputy Secretary dealt with it, of which 4 days were Government Holidays. Hence, there was an inordinate delay of 10 days in considering the representation.

Respondent’s Arguments

The learned Additional Public Prosecutor appearing on behalf of the respondent opposed the Habeas Corpus Petition. He argued that though there was a delay in considering the representation, on that score alone, the impugned detention order cannot be quashed. According to the learned Additional Public Prosecutor, no prejudice was caused to the detenu and thus, there was no violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution of India.

Court’s Observation

The court observed various landmark judgments like Rekha vs. State of Tamil Nadu (2011 (5) SCC 244) in which the Honorable Supreme Court has held that “the procedural safeguards are required to be zealously watched and enforced by the Courts of law and their rigour cannot be allowed to be diluted on the basis of the nature of the alleged activities undertaken by the detenu”.

Similarly, the High Court observed the case of Tara Chand vs. the State of Rajasthan and others 1980 (2) SCC 321, where the Honorable Supreme Court held that “any inordinate and unexplained delay on the part of the Government in considering the representation renders the very detention illegal”.

Based on these judgments and from the facts of the case, Justice M.N Sundresh and Justice D. Krishnakumar finally observed that there was an inordinate and unexplained delay of 6 days in submitting the remarks by the Detaining Authority and an unexplained delay of 10 days in considering the representation by the Hon’ble Minister for Electricity, Prohibition and Excise Department.

Court’s Order

The High Court allowed the petition and held the detention order to be illegal and quashed the same.

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