The Madras High Court has held that in cases where preventive detention was wholly frivolous or was based on non-existent or irrelevant grounds, the consequence would be that the State would be mulcted with punitive damages.

The bench of Justice M.S. Ramesh and Justice N. Anand Venkatesh observed that "…while quashing preventive detention orders, if the Court finds that the detention was wholly frivolous or was based on non-existent or irrelevant grounds, the consequence would be that the State would be mulcted with punitive damages for depriving the liberty of the subject, without any lawful justification."

The Madras High Court expressed concern over the indiscriminate use of preventive detention laws in the State. The Court observed that the State of Tamil Nadu for a whole decade occupied an unenviable first place in detaining the maximum number of people under its preventive laws in the entire country.

"…the spectre of gross abuse of preventive detention laws hangs over the State and has reached Orwellian proportions.", the bench observed.

The Court further observed that an irrepressible urge to use preventive detention must now be sternly dealt with by imposing punitive damages on the State.

The Court made these observations while dealing with petitions seeking directions to produce two persons before the Court who were detained at the Central Prison, Madurai and Central Prison Palayamkottai respectively.

The two persons- Jeyaraman and Soundarrajan were detained by the Orders of the District Magistrate of Dindigul District and District Magistrate of Tenkasi District holding them to be a "Goonda", as contemplated under Section 2(f) of Tamil Nadu Act 14 of 1982.

Advocates Henri Tiphagne and K. Dinesh appeared for the petitioners whereas Additional Public Prosecutor A.Thiruvadi Kumar appeared for the Respondents.

In the plea involving detenu- Jeyaraman, it was submitted that the detenu was agitating against land acquisition proceedings initiated for Tirumangalam–Rajapalayam–Senkottai National Highway and several peaceful protests were conducted demanding to choose an alternative route for the proposed four lane project.

It was further submitted that initially, a case was registered in 2018 as if the detenu and his associates abused the Special Thasildar and prevented him from discharging his official duties. Thereafter, the ground case was registered, as if the petitioner threatened, abused and attacked the Village Assistant. Both these cases were taken as a ground to pass the detention order.

The Court noted that "The entire incident had taken place inside a room and even assuming that the allegations made against the detenu is taken to be true, at the best, it can only be construed to constitute individual offence by the detenu as against a public officer."

The Court held that the impugned detention order suffers from infirmity and illegality warranting the interference of the Court.

Accordingly, the Court set aside the detention order passed against detenue-Jeyaraman.

The Court also ordered payment of Rs.25,000/- as compensation to him for having violated his right guaranteed under Article 21 of Constitution of India.

In the plea involving detenu- Soundarrajan, it was submitted that adverse case against the detenu was for alleged offence under Sections 294(b), 324 and 506(ii) of Indian Penal Code.

The Court observed that there was total non-application of mind on the part of the detaining authority. Thus the Court also set aside the detention order passed against Soundarrajan.

Before parting with the Order, the Court noted that "This Court hopes that the State and the Executive takes this order seriously, since this Court has indicated that in cases where the detention is found to be illegal, cost will be imposed against the State in each case."

Cause Title- Sunitha v. Additional Chief Secretary to Government & Ors. with connected matter

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