Delhi High Court
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Delhi High Court: In a case where a detenue filed for quashing of his detention order on the grounds of violation of constitutional mandate as laid down in Article 22 (5), a Division Bench of Siddharth Mridul and Rajnish Bhatnagar JJ., set aside the detention order as detenue is illiterate and the detention order must have been explained to him either in Hindi or any vernacular language, if he speaks or understands. Thus, the fact that he signed in English is not sufficient to form an opinion that he has full understanding of the language.

The present writ petition was filed under Article 226 read with Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) seeking quashing of the impugned detention order passed by the Joint Secretary, Govt. of India u/s 3 (1) of Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988 (PITNDPS) and anorder passed by the Deputy Secretary, Govt. of India u/s 9(f) of the PITNDPS confirming the detention order for a period of one year.

Counsel for detenue submitted that there was no need to detain the detenue under PITNDPS as he is already in custody in a case under the stringent provisions of NDPS Act and there is no likelihood of his release from custody in the near future.

He further submitted that the detenue being an illiterate person, the order of detention was not properly communicated to detenue as the same is in English language.

The State opposed the petition contending that the detenuestated that “CD and CDR would be seen by his advocate” which goes to show that he understood everything, having the assistance of his advocate. It was further submitted that all the documents were signed by the detenue in “English” which clearly shows that the detenue understood the contents of the documents supplied and made the representation signed by his advocate.

Placing reliance on Chaju Ram v. State of Jammu & Kashmir, (1970) 1 SCC 536, Nainmal Partap Mal Shah v. Union of India, (1980) 4 SCC 427, Haribandhu Dass v. District Magistrate, Cuttack, (1969) 1 SCR 227, the Court noted that simply because the detenue has put his signatures in English does not by any stretch of imagination shows that he understands English and as a consequence understood the grounds of detention.

The Court further noted that the manner in which the signatures of the detenue were obtained on the documents, leaves no shadow of doubt that the contents of any of the documents/detention order were explained to the detenue in vernacular or the language that the detenue understands, i.e., Hindi. The detaining authority was under an obligation to communicate to the detenue the grounds of detention effectively and fully in a language in the present case “Hindi”, which the detenue understood even if that entailstranslation of the grounds to the language known to the detenue.

Thus, the Court held that where a detenue is illiterate, the mandate of Article 22(5) would be served only if the grounds of detention are explained to the detenue in a language that he understands, so as to enable him to avail the fundamental right of making an effective representation.

[Sharafat Sheikh v. UOI, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 2725, decided on 02-09-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case:

Mr. Tanmaya Mehta, Ms. Shreya Gupta, Mr. Anurag Sahay and Ms. Mallika Bhatia, Advocates, for the Petitioner;

Mr. Chetan Sharma, ASG with Mr. Ajay Digpaul, CGSC with Mr. Soumava Karmakar, Mr. Kamal Digpaul with Mr. Rakesh Duhan, Inspector, Narcotics Cell, Crime Branch, Advocates, for the defendant.


*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

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]