8 Jun 2023 7:45 AM GMT
The Manipur High Court has restrained the police from routinely picking up a man, accused in a 10-year-old case under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA), from his residence on every Independence and Republic Day and to make him pose for photographs in full public view.Considering the aforesaid actions of the police as violation of right to life and privacy of...
The Manipur High Court has restrained the police from routinely picking up a man, accused in a 10-year-old case under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA), from his residence on every Independence and Republic Day and to make him pose for photographs in full public view.
Considering the aforesaid actions of the police as violation of right to life and privacy of the petitioner, the Single Judge Bench of Justice A. Guneshwar Sharma cited judgments rendered by the Apex Court upholding ‘right to dignified life’ and ‘right to privacy’ and observed,
“In the recent case of KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India: (2017) 10 SCC 1, a 9 Judge Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the right to privacy and to live with dignity is a facet of personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution. In the case of Danial Latifi v. Union of India: (2001) 7 SCC 740, it was observed that ‘right to live with dignity’ is included in ‘right to life and personal liberty’.”
The petitioner, who presently runs a business of mobile food truck, was arrested on 21.04.2012 in connection with an FIR under Sections 17/20, UAPA and was subsequently released on bail on 30.04.2012. In the FIR, it was recorded that the petitioner was a member of a banned militant outfit named People’s Liberation Army/ Revolutionary People’s Front (PLA/RPF).
It was alleged that he was arbitrarily arrested only on the ground that he was carrying Rs. 90,000/- with him. It was further stated that there is no prima facie case against the petitioner and there is no progress in the investigation since his arrest 10 years ago.
It was also stated that the petitioner has been routinely picked up from his residence on every Independence Day and Republic Day by the police and he was made to pose for photographs in full public view which has tarnished his prestige and reputation in the society.
Since there is no progress in the investigation for more than 10 years, the petitioner approached the High Court with the prayer that his name may be deleted from the FIR or the Court may direct the respondents to file chargesheet within a stipulated time frame.
He also filed an application inter alia praying that during the pendency of this petition, the respondents may be directed not to pick up and wrongfully detain him during Independence Day and Republic Day every year and also during the visit of high dignitaries, as the same violates his right of live with dignity and right of privacy.
However, it was submitted for the State that the petitioner was arrested for being a member of the illegal and banned outfit PLA/RPF and Rs. 90,000/- was recovered in cash from his possession. It was stated that he used to collect money from various departments and businessmen and transferred the same to the organization as party fund after retaining his percentage.
The State underlined that as the State of Manipur is an insurgency prone State, there has to be strict surveillance over the movement of cadres or members of outlawed organizations, especially on the occasions of Independence Day and Republic Day. Accordingly, the petitioner being a bailed-out member of PLA/RPF, the police make some queries about his life and he was never arrested or detained.
It was also argued that there are sufficient materials against the petitioner. It was clarified that the investigation took a long time as associates of the petitioner are yet to be arrested and necessary steps will be taken up to complete the investigation as soon as possible.
It was also submitted that an investigation involving offences under UAPA cannot be quashed on mere technicalities and the involvement of the petitioner has to be established after due investigation.
On the other side, it was highlighted on behalf of the petitioner that there is absolutely no progress in the investigation at all for a period of more than 10 years and during the pendency, the petitioner has been harassed on every Republic & Independence Day and visit of high dignitaries as he had been picked up from his residence by the police.
It was also argued that the plea of calling the petitioner to enquire his well-being cannot be accepted as he was usually picked up by police from his residence and made to pose for photographs in full public view. It was emphasized that such treatment violates his right to privacy and dignity as enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.
After hearing the parties, the Court referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in Kharak Singh v. State of UP, which considered the validity of domiciliary visits by police under the UP Police Regulations which authorised visit during night time to the residence of the person under surveillance. Therein, it was held that such provision violated the personal liberty to live with dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Court then noted that the investigation in the instant case could not be completed till date and also there is no much progress in the investigation. The only explanation given by the State authorities is that associates of the present petitioner could not be arrested and hence, the matter could not be completed.
The Court also took note of the fact that the offences under UAPA are serious one relating to the security of the nation and FIR cannot be quashed on mere technicalities without going to merit of the case.
Therefore, to strike a balance, it directed the respondents to complete the investigation within a period of six months from the date of receipt of this order and submit the chargesheet to the concerned trial Court.
It also clarified that if the presence of the petitioner is required by the investigating agency in connection with the FIR or for any other reason, a notice under Section 41A, CrPC be issued to the petitioner for his appearance on a particular date. In case, the petitioner fails to appear, necessary steps may be taken by the police for ensuring his appearance.
“This direction is issued keeping in mind the settled principles of law of maintaining the intricate balance between the fundamental right to live with dignity of a citizen vis-à-vis the affairs of security of the State. It may be pertinent to observe here that Court ought not to pass any sort of order which may restrict the power of police in maintaining the law and order of the State, except for protecting the basic right of a citizen,” it added.
The Court also directed the Registry to deliver a copy of the order to the Director General of Police for issuance of general directions/Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in terms of the observations and directions made in the order to deal with bailed-out persons with empathy.
Case Title: Maisnam Korouhanba Luwang v. State of Manipur & Ors.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mani) 5
Case No.: Cril. Petn. No. 26 of 2022
Date of Judgment: June 05, 2023
Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr. H. Kenajit & Mr. Albert Keisham, Advocates
Counsel for the Respondents: Mr. H. Samarjit, Public Prosecutor
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment