Bombay High Court: A Division Bench of Z.A. Haq and M.G. Giratkar, JJ., partly allowed a criminal writ petition filed against the alleged illegal and high-handed action by the Police Inspector and Police Constable (respondents).

The matter related to 2013-2014 when disputes arose about the trusteeship of Shri Mirannath Maharaj Deosthan, Deoli. There was a dispute about whether Petitioner 1 was the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the public trust. FIRs were filed against the petitioners. However, after enquiry, the police authorities found that no cognizable offences were made out against the petitioners. But surprisingly, on 5-2-2014, action under Section 151 (1) CrPC (arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences) was taken against the petitioners and they were detained at the police station. They were later released on the orders of the Executive Magistrate. The petitioners claimed to be reputed citizens. They alleged that their detention was totally illegal and a result of abuse of power by the Police Inspector and Constable.

On behalf of the Police Inspector and Constable, it was submitted that the said action became necessary under Section 151 (1) CrPC as FIRs had been lodged against the petitioners. The High Court was of the opinion that this justification was misleading and was an attempt to cover up the illegal act.

The Court observed: “The police officer may take action as per Section 151 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure against a person, only if he has knowledge of a design of commissioning of any cognizable offence, or if it appears to him that commission of cognizable offence cannot be prevented unless preventive action is taken against the person who may commit cognizable offence.”

It was further stated: “Knowledge to the police officer of a design to commit any cognizable offence and formation of opinion by the concerned police officer that commission of cognizable offence cannot be prevented unless preventive action is taken against the proposed offender is sine qua non for taking preventive action as per Section 151 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Depriving a person of his liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India cannot be left to the whims and wishes of the police officer, and if it is permitted it would be conferring arbitrary and unbridled powers on the police officers/authorities.”

The High Court held that the petitioners had suffered due to the illegal and high handed actions of the Police Inspector and, therefore, ordered him to pay a compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the two petitioners, in addition to the costs of Rs 10,000 each payable to the petitioners. However, petitioners’ prayer for directing the State to conduct enquiry against the Police Inspector and Constable was rejected. [Kishor v. State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 6639, decided on 17-12-2019]

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