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No preventive detention without proof: SC

March 29, 2009 21:18 IST

The Supreme Court has held that a person cannot be held in preventive detention (custody) without adequate evidence as otherwise it would be violative of his or her 'personal liberty' guaranteed by the Constitution.

In matters relating to preventive detention, authorities have to examine whether there was any organised act or activity giving room for an inference that the detainees would continue to indulge in similar prejudicial activity warranting detention of the person, the apex court said.

"In an appropriate case, if there is no adequate material for arriving at such a conclusion based on solitary incident, the court is required and is bound to protect him in view of the personal liberty which is guaranteed under the Constitution of India," a bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and P Sathasivam observed.

Under law, a person can be held under 'preventive detention' for a certain period if there are sufficient evidence to indicate that the accused has the propensity to indulge in criminal activities, if he/she is not detained by the authorities. The bench passed the observation while upholding an appeal filed by Pooja Batra [Images], challenging the preventive detention of her husband Deepak Batra by Customs authorities, under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act.

The authorities held Deepak Batra under preventive detention on the ground that he had smuggled goods into the country since 2006, though they did not have adequate evidence to back up their charge. The accused's wife filed a petition in the Delhi [Images] High Court against the detention but it dismissed her plea and imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on her, following which she appealed in the apex court.

Upholding her appeal, the apex court said there was no material on record to establish the charge of the Customs authorities that the accused was indulging in smuggling activities warranting his preventive detention.

"There is nothing in the order of detention which would indicate that any of the said earlier imports were effected in contravention of any of the provisions of the Customs Act, 1962, or that they could have been regarded as having been smuggled into the country," the bench observed. The apex court, while quashing the detention order, also relieved the petitioner of the Rs 50,000 fine imposed by the high court.

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