Chhattisgarh High Court: The Bench of Sanjay K. Agrawal, J. awarded a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to the petitioners, who were illegally held in prison for 113 days in spite of the order of release being passed by the High Court and held that right to life is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and for its breach or violation, the petitioners are entitled for monetary compensation from the respondents who are responsible for its breach.

As Mahatma Gandhi  said, “To deprive a man of his natural liberty and to deny to him the ordinary amenities of life is worse than starving the body; it is starvation of the soul, the dweller in the body.”

The petitioners were convicted under the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and were sentenced to 5 years’ rigorous imprisonment and fine. On appeal the sentence was reduced by the High Court to the period already undergone by them. The Registry of the High Court endorsed the judgment copy to the Special Judge, NDPS Act, Janjgir-Champa; the Superintendent of Central Jail and to the petitioners for information and necessary action.  No release/super-session warrant was however issued by the Court of the Special Judge (NDPS) directing the jail authorities to release the petitioners in furtherance of the judgment. Eventually the petitioners made an application on 9-10-2013 before the Sessions Court and were released on the same day, but after a period of 113 days from the date of judgment.

The Court observed that by virtue of Rule 315(2) of the Criminal Courts – Rules and Orders read with Rule 768 of the Jail Manual, issuance of the super-session warrant/release warrant upon reversal/modification of sentence in appeal is the responsibility of the court to which the appellate judgment/order is certified under Section 425 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. It was the responsibility of the NDPS Court to issue the warrant and not the obligation of the petitioners to produce the same to the court concerned for their release. The law obliges the appellate court or the High Court to send a copy of the judgment to which the appellate judgment or order is certified under Section 425 CrPC. The Court observed  that the period spent in jail was clearly unauthorised, without being backed by any procedure and  in violation of the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 i.e. protection of life and personal liberty.

Deciding the question as to whether a writ petition is an approppriate remedy for claiming compensation/ancilliary reliefs, awarding a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to the petitioners, the Court observed that in light of the law laid down in Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar, (1983) 4 SCC 141 and Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa, (1993) 2 SCC 746 the writ petition is maintainable against the State Government and it is liable to pay the compensation for the wrong done by the presiding officer of the NDPS Court.

The Court also requested  the High Court in its administrative jurisdiction to prevent recurrence of such an event in future and to consider the feasibility of making a foolproof system to ensure, where a sentence is modified or reserved in appeal by this Court, the warrant is signed and issued by the court to which appellate judgment or order is certified under Section 425 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, expeditiously without loss of time as required by Rule 315(2) of the Criminal Courts—Rules and Orders read with Rule 768 of the Jail Manual to avoid any such embarrassment to all concerned. [Sunderlal Patel v. High Court of Chattisgarh2016 SCC OnLine Chh 588, decided on April 11, 2016]

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