The Bombay High Court recently slapped a fine of Rs. 50,000 on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for an illegal arrest made by its officer in the PNB fraud case.
The Bench comprising Justice S.J. Kathawalla and Justice Bharti Dangre, however, clarified that the agency is free to recover this cost from the erring officers responsible for the violations, as found after disciplinary proceedings.
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by one Ms. Kavita Manikikar, who had alleged that she was arrested in violation of Section 46(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The provision bars arrest of a woman after sunset and before sunrise. As per the provision, such arrest can only be made in exceptional circumstances, and that too after a woman police officer obtains prior permission from Judicial Magistrate first class.
She had been arrested in relation to the case, wherein diamond merchant Nirav Modi is the prime accused after the CBI alleged that she was the authorized signatory of the three firms owned by Nirav Modi. She was, however, arrested at around 8 pm, in violation of the provision.
Examining the contentions, the Court began by looking into the legislative intent for introducing the provision through an amendment in 2005. Thereafter, the Court noted the importance of adhering to the procedure prescribed by the Code, and ruled that Ms. Manikikar's arrest was in violation of the provisions, observing,
"The previous guarantee of 'Life and Liberty' as enshrined in Art. 21 of Constitution of India available to a citizen of this country cannot be denied to a convict, an accused in custody and surely not to a suspect who is sought to be converted to an accused on the investigation and then from an accused to a convict on trial.
It is an obligation upon State to ensure that there is no infringement of indefensible right of citizen to life and liberty, which he cannot be deprived of without following the procedure established by law. The Code of Criminal procedure which outlines the manner and to the extent to which a person can be denuded of his liberty, hence, needs strict compliance. Any deviation from the prescribed procedure in the matter of arrest can therefore, be not countenanced and is liable to be declared as illegal."
The Court further opined that the officers responsible for the violation of the provision need to be put through disciplinary proceedings, observing, "The competent authorities are at liberty to initiate such an action against the erring officers, so that officers from such a responsible agency shall deter from committing such an overt act of violation of the statutory provisions, which aim at ensuring an individual's life and liberty and depriving the same in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law."
It then directed CBI to pay Rs. 50,000 to Ms. Manikikar within eight weeks, and disposed of the Petition.