Rhetorical incantation of the words “goonda” or “prejudicial to maintenance of public order” not sufficient to invoke Preventive Detention

Supreme Court: In the case where the detenu was detained under the Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Dacoits, Drug Offenders, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders and Land Grabbers Act, 1986 for selling the spurious seeds to poor farmers and acquiring illegal gains at their expense his illegal activities, the Court said that classifying the detenu as a “goonda” affecting public order, because of inadequate yield from the chilli seed sold by him and prevent him from moving for bail even is a gross abuse of the statutory power of preventive detention.

The appellant, the detenu’s wife, had contended that the detenu was already in custody in two other cases. The order of detention does not consider the same, setting out special reasons for an order of preventive detention, with regard to a person already in custody.

The order of preventive detention mentioned that the illegal activities of the detenu were causing danger to poor and small farmers and their safety and financial well-being and that recourse to normal legal procedure would be time consuming, and would not be an effective deterrent to prevent the detenu from indulging in further prejudicial activities in the business of spurious seeds, affecting maintenance of public order, and that there was no other option except to invoke the provisions of the preventive detention Act as an extreme measure to insulate the society from his evil deeds.

Setting aside the abovementioned order, the bench of L. Nageswara Rao and Navin Sinha, JJ said that the rhetorical incantation of the words “goonda” or “prejudicial to maintenance of public order” under the Act cannot be sufficient justification to invoke the draconian powers of preventive detention. The grounds of detention are ex-facie extraneous to the Act. The Court, however, clarified that there will not be any prejudice to the prosecution of the detenu under the ordinary laws of the land. [V. Shantha v. State of Telangana, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 623, decided on 24.05.2017]


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