Gujarat High Court: Paresh Upadhyay, J., allowed petitions which were filed against the order  passed by the District Magistrate whereby the petitioners were treated as ‘property grabbers’ and were detained under the Gujarat Prevention of Anti Social Activities Act, 1985. The execution of the impugned orders was suspended by this Court and the petitioners were directed to be released.

The Court observed that t the justification put forward by the State Authorities to resort to PASA is that, had that not been done the petitioners would have taken help of advocates for continuing illegal activities.

If any citizen faces action from the State and if he resorts to the legal remedy available to him, and if the citizen is protected, any attempt to obstruct it, may be viewed very seriously and even the option of initiating proceedings under the Contempt of Court Act, can also be explored. However, the matter here had not reached that far.

The Court found that the detaining authority had exercised the powers, treating the petitioners as ‘property grabbers’ within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the Act. The FIR, which was the basis to treat the petitioners as such persons as referred to in the impugned orders and further details in that regard were on record. After perusal of which the Court found that the detaining authority fell in error in treating the activities of the petitioner as prejudicial to the maintenance of the public order.

The Court relying on the Supreme Court judgment in Pushker Mukherjee v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1970 SC 852 explained that distinction between ‘the law and order’ and ‘the public order’ needs to be kept in mind. The Court was of the opinion that the impugned order had failed this test. The Court further noted that the grounds of the detention, the detaining authority had recorded to the effect that, according to him, the activities of the petitioner create a sense of alarm and feeling of insecurity in the minds of public at large, however on weighing this vis-a-vis the material on record, the citation of such words was more in the nature of rituals rather than with any significance to the alleged activities of the petitioner.

The Court allowing the petitions upheld the order of setting petitioners at liberty and further noted that on the basis of FIR at least four detention orders are passed and two of them are ladies. The complainant resides at Mumbai. The enthusiasm on the part of the State Authorities to throw the weight of the State in favour of one of the contesting parties, in the matters of private property disputes, may lend the State in embarrassing position one day. Further, in the property disputes – the financial stakes from both the sides may be very high. This may also lead to temptation to one of the parties, for soliciting help from the revenue and the police officers, for the considerations less known to law. These are the dangers which need to be kept in view by the Higher Authorities of the State.

[Ramjibhai Nathubhai Charola v. State of Gujarat, R/Special Civil Application No. 424 of 2021, decided on 25-08-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

For the Petitioners: Mr O I Pathan

For the Respondents: Mr Hardik Soni

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