A Writ Petition was instituted by an individual for violation of his fundamental rights by the State before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. The Court examined the facts of the case & granted a week to the State to file their return.
The Petitioner, Arun Sharma, was wrongfully arrested and a news article portraying him to be a hard-core criminal was published in the newspaper by the Sub-Inspector Dinesh Rajput. In light of the wrongful arrest & violation of privacy rights, the Sub-Inspector was placed under suspension. This suspension was highly publicized.
Within 15 days, the order of suspension was revoked and the Sub-inspector was granted a transfer without informing the public at large. Multiple questions of law have been posed by the Court in the present hearing – the integral one being – whether the privacy rights of an individual granted under the Constitution can be violated by executive order.
The Counsel for State submitted that in 2014, a circular had been issued regarding the sharing of information with the media. The circular stated that uncovered faces of accused persons can be shared with the media subject to a few restrictions as enumerated in the impugned circular. The Respondents accepted that the Sub-Inspector had wrongly arrested the Petitioner.
As a consequence, the Sub-Inspector was suspended and the same was published in the newspaper alongside his photograph. The Respondents also informed the Court that punishment of fine amounting to Rs. 5000/- was imposed on the Sub-Inspector.
In the previous compliance report, the Respondents disclosed that the aforesaid suspension order was revoked after fourteen days and the Sub-Inspector was transferred out of the jurisdiction. A new copy of the posting was, however, not submitted by the Respondents.
The Court noted that the Respondents had failed to clarify the reason behind the revocation of the suspension order of the Sub-Inspector even though a gross violation of fundamental rights was carried out by him. Moreover, even though the Respondents highly publicized the suspension order, revocation of the same was not informed to the general public. The return filed by the Respondents is silent on whether a violation of privacy rights is a normal mistake or serious misconduct. It is also silent on the question of payment of compensation under Article 21 of the Constitution.
In light of the above, the Court required the Respondents to clarify the following aspects;
Firstly, whether a violation of privacy rights & tarnishing one’s reputation is a normal mistake or serious misconduct? Secondly, why the order of revocation of suspension was not publicized thereby informing the general public that police officers can get away with gross violations of fundamental rights? Thirdly, why is the return silent on the question of compensation despite the admission of guilt?
Fourthly, whether any inquiry into the allegations made against the sub-inspector and, if yes, what was the outcome? Fifthly, whether the detention of a person without a formal arrest is permissible? And lastly, which law permitted the Respondents to upload photographs of an accused person on social media?
In regards to the circular relied upon by the Respondents, another integral question that arose is – whether the State Government, by issuing an executive order, can violate the fundamental rights of individuals enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court relied upon Mehmood Nayyar Azam v. State of Chattisgarh to highlight aspects related to the fundamental rights of arrested persons. The Court granted a week to the State to file a return on the abovementioned aspects.
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