Personal Liberty and Judicial Review of Preventive Detention.

In the case in hand, the procedural safeguards are complied with. Insofar as the contention that the courts should lean in favour of upholding the personal liberty, we are conscious that the Constitution and the Supreme Court are very zealous of upholding the personal liberty of an individual. But the liberty of an individual has to be subordinated within reasonable bounds to the good of the people. Order of detention is clearly a preventive measure and devised to afford protection to the society.

When the preventive detention is aimed to protect the safety and security of the nation, balance has to be struck between liberty of an individual and the needs of the society.

Observing that the object of preventive detention is not to punish a man for having done something but to intercept and to prevent him from doing so, in Naresh Kumar Goyal v. Union of India and others (2005) 8 SCC 276, it was held as under:-

“8. It is trite law that an order of detention is not a curative or reformative or punitive action, but a preventive action, avowed object of which being to prevent the antisocial and subversive elements from imperilling the welfare of the country or the security of the nation or from disturbing the public tranquillity or from indulging in smuggling activities or from engaging in illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, etc. Preventive detention is devised to afford protection to society. The authorities on the subject have consistently taken the view that preventive detention is devised to afford protection to society. The object is not to punish a man for having done something but to intercept before he does it, and to prevent him from doing so………”.

Considering the scope of preventive detention and observing that it is aimed to protect the safety and interest of the society, in State of Maharashtra and others v. Bhaurao Punjabrao Gawande (2008) 3 SCC 613, it was held as under:-

“36. Liberty of an individual has to be subordinated, within reasonable bounds, to the good of the people. The framers of the Constitution were conscious of the practical need of preventive detention with a view to striking a just and delicate balance between need and necessity to preserve individual liberty and personal freedom on the one hand and security and safety of the country and interest of the society on the other hand. Security of State, maintenance of public order and services essential to the community, prevention of smuggling and blackmarketing activities, etc. demand effective safeguards in the larger interests of sustenance of a peaceful democratic way of life.

37. In considering and interpreting preventive detention laws, courts ought to show greatest concern and solitude in upholding and safeguarding the fundamental right of liberty of the citizen, however, without forgetting the historical background in which the necessity—an unhappy necessity—was felt by the makers of the Constitution in incorporating provisions of preventive detention in the Constitution itself. While no doubt it is the duty of the court to safeguard against any encroachment on the life and liberty of individuals, at the same time the authorities who have the responsibility to discharge the functions vested in them under the law of the country should not be impeded or interfered with without justification (vide A.K. Roy v. Union of India (1982) 1 SCC 271, Bhut Nath Mete v. State of W.B. (1974) 1 SCC 645, State of W.B. v. Ashok Dey (1972) 1 SCC 199 and ADM v. Shivakant Shukla (1976) 2 SCC 521).” [underlining added].

The court must be conscious that the satisfaction of the detaining authority is “subjective” in nature and the court cannot substitute its opinion for the subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority and interfere with the order of detention.

It does not mean that the subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority is immune from judicial reviewability. By various decisions, the Supreme Court has carved out areas within which the validity of subjective satisfaction can be tested. In the present case, huge volume of gold had been smuggled into the country unabatedly for the last three years and about 3396 kgs of the gold has been brought into India during the period from July 2018 to March, 2019 camouflaging it with brass metal scrap. The detaining authority recorded finding that this has serious impact on the economy of the nation. Detaining authority also satisfied that the detenues have propensity to indulge in the same act of smuggling and passed the order of preventive detention, which is a preventive measure. Based on the documents and the materials placed before the detaining authority and considering the individual role of the detenues, the detaining authority satisfied itself as to the detenues’ continued propensity and their inclination to indulge in acts of smuggling in a planned manner to the detriment of the economic security of the country that there is a need to prevent the detenues from smuggling goods. The High Court erred in interfering with the satisfaction of the detaining authority and the impugned judgment cannot be sustained and is liable to be set aside.

[Source: Union Of India vs Dimple Happy Dhakad decided by SC on 18 July, 2019]
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