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HC fines Maharashtra government for illegally detaining man under MPDA

Holding as “illegal” the detention of a 30-year-old man under the stringent MPDA, the Bombay High Court has imposed costs on the state government.
A bench of Justices A S Oka and A S Chandurkar directed the State to pay Rs. 10,000 as costs to Yuvraj Pawar, a resident of Satara, for his illegal detention under Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Slumlords, Bootleggers, Drug Offenders and Dangerous Persons Act (MPDA).

Pawar was detained under section 3 of MPDA on December 2, 2013 by an order passed by Satara Magistrate. However, on January 18, 2014, the state revoked the detention order and ordered Pawar’s release from jail. Being aggrieved, Pawar filed a petition for quashing his detention and seeking compensation for wrongful detention.

“It is true that the impugned order of detention is illegal. This is a case where there is a non-application of mind by the detaining authority. A person cannot be deprived of his liberty in such casual manner, more so in the case of preventive detention where the liberty is taken away without conducting a trial,” the bench observed recently.

However, the court did not award compensation as prayed by the petitioner. Instead, it imposed costs on the State government for passing the detention order “without any application of mind.”

“This is not a case where compensation can be granted. However, we find this is a fit case where the costs can be imposed. The state government has accepted opinion of the Advisory Board that there was no sufficient cause for detention of the petitioner,” said the Judges.

“However, we make it clear that this judgement should not be understood to mean that in every case where order of preventive detention is found to be illegal or is revoked by the state government on the basis of the opinion of Advisory Board that the detenu is entitled to compensation or costs. The exercise of discretionary power to grant compensation in public law remedy depends on facts of each case,” they said.

The court held that section 3 of MPDA does not confer a power on the competent authority to preventively detain a person for “welfare and maintaining law and order in the society”.

“The power conferred on the detaining authority under this Section is to pass an order of preventive detention with a “view to prevent any person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”. Thus, the impugned order of detention shows that it is passed on a non-existing ground,” said the bench.

The bench further observed, “from the detention order, it is apparent that the same is passed ‘for the welfare and maintaining law and order in the society’ on the ground that notwithstanding earlier preventive actions against him, there is no improvement in petitioner’s behaviour. This shows complete non-application of mind by the detaining authority.”

The court referred to an affidavit filed by Bajrang Digambar Umate, Deputy Secretary of Home Department, wherein it was mentioned that the state government has understood the necessity of ensuring that the District Magistrates and Commissioners who exercise the powers of detaining authority do not commit illegalities while passing such orders.

In the affidavit, the state government also assured that it would frame guidelines within three months for the authorities for passing such orders of detention. Besides, the Home Department would issue instructions for providing latest rulings and strengthening the legal back up by arranging seminars of the concerned officers who are passing orders of preventive detention, said the affidavit.

The bench, thereupon, ordered the State to comply with its assurances given in the affidavit filed by Umate within two months. It also asked the State to file a compliance report by December 1.

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