The Supreme Court has been left shocked at the arrest of a 66-year-old man and his incarceration for 91 days without bail for “raising his voice” and “shouting” at a court bailiff who came to deliver possession of a disputed property.
Mr. Bhanudas of Shevgaon district in Maharashtra had been fighting for the property since 1991. His exact words to the bailiff, as per the petition, were: “You cannot remove the wall as this place belongs to me.”
Consequently, he was arrested the same day, January 13, 2015 and charged with Section 353 (criminal force to deter public servant from discharging his duty) of the Indian Penal Code, which carries a maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment or fine. The Magistrate rejected his bail application the next day, saying that Mr. Bhanudas “created a hurdle” in the cause of justice.
Subsequently, the Sessions Judge rejected his bail application as well, saying that the senior citizen’s behavior amounted to contempt of Court. Bail plea was rejected by the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court as well, after which he approached the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Bench, comprising of Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Kurian Joseph rapped the Maharashtra counsel, asking on “what authority are you detaining a 66-year-old man for 91 days for raising his voice?”
“Every day we are faced by this soul-searching question about the State detaining persons... Tell us, how could you leave this man behind bars for 91 days?” Justice Joseph asked.
Referring to Section 353 of the IPC, under which Mr. Bhanudas was arrested, Justice Joseph asked the counsel, “Don't you know when there is an option of fine as punishment, the first choice should be to order payment of fine and not imprisonment... What have you done here?”
The Supreme Court hence meted out justice and immediately ordered the release of Mr. Bhanudas on bail.