A person cannot be persecuted by the state authorities merely on suspicion that he or she has embraced Maoist ideology, the Kerala high court has said.
A division bench of Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice A K Jayasankaran Nambiar made the observation on Monday while upholding a single bench order granting Rs 1 lakh compensation to a man who was illegally detained by a special squad of the Kerala Police in 2014 on suspicion of being a Maoist.
Dismissing an appeal by the state government against the single judge order to pay Rs 1 lakh to Shyam Balakrishnan, who is the son of a former high court judge, the bench said, "The preamble to our Constitution declares that we the people of India are guaranteed liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship."
"The freedom of an individual to hold a particular political ideology is an aspect of his fundamental right to personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution in that he has the unfettered freedom to choose an ideology of his liking," it said.
"Accordingly, merely on suspicion that the petitioner has embraced the Maoist ideology, he or she cannot be persecuted by the state authorities," it held.
The bench also said in view of the primacy that is accorded under the Constitution to a person's fundamental right to privacy and personal liberty, the police action- detaining and interrogating the petitioner and searching his house without following procedure under the Code of Criminal Procedure- was "wholly unjustified."
In its order in 2015, the single bench had said the police cannot detain a person merely because he is a Maoist, unless police form a reasonable opinion that his activities are unlawful.
"Being a Maoist is no crime, though the political ideology of Maoists would not synchronise with our constitutional polity.
It is a basic human right to think in terms of human aspirations," the single judge had said.