arbitrary arrest and detention
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This article is written by Muskaan Garg, a first-year student currently pursuing BBA.LLB (Hons) from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. This article delves into the provisions provided by Article 22 concerning all the safeguards and their final impacts and implications in real time. It also focuses on the trail of the law since its emergence to the latest developments.

Introduction

Article 22 constituted within the right to freedom is one of the parts of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution. This article is covered in two major parts, protection and rights granted in case of arbitrary arrest also known as punitive detention, and safeguards against preventive detention. The main difference is that whether a person is charged with a crime or not. In case of detention, the person is not accused of any crime but is restricted on a reasonable suspicion while in case of arrest the person is charged for a crime.

This article has always been a topic for debates as it is a contradiction to the freedom guaranteed by Article 21, dealing with the right to life and liberty. The article was originally brought in to safeguard society against undermining of sanctity of the constitution but it rather curtailed the freedom of the masses. The subject matter of this article has always remained very arbitrary and open to interpretation which makes it difficult for the article to attain absolute stability within the constitutional framework. It has frequently been attacked in the history of India, with pointers towards the worst excesses of emergency in 1975 as an example of the misuse which Article 22 allows. In recent developments, this article has again become a topic of discussion with regard to the mass protests taking place in the country, dissenting against the citizenship amendment bill.

Article 22: not a complete Code 

In the A K Gopalan v. State of Madras case of 1950, the Supreme Court, taking a narrow view of Article 21 and 22, refused to consider if the procedure established by law suffered from any deficiencies. It was of the belief that each article of the constitution was independent of each other. When the petitioner challenged the validity of his detention on the grounds that it was violating his rights under Article 19 and 21, the Supreme Court disregarded all the contentions considering that the detention could be justified merely on the ground that it was carried out according to the ‘procedure established by law’. The Supreme Court, in this case, followed a restrictive interpretation of the expression ‘personal liberty’ and the term ‘law’, rejecting all principles of natural justice.

In Maneka Gandhi v. Union Of India, the court widened the scope of the expression ‘personal liberty’ considerably and interpreted it in its widest amplitude. The court observed that Article 21 does not exclude Article 19 hence any law depriving a person of personal liberty would have to stand the test of Article 21 and Article 19 simultaneously.

Article 22: not a complete Code 

Therefore it can be said that Article 22 in itself is an incomplete code which means that the legality of the article is limited to be tested only against it and is not completely in accord with the fundamental rights of the constitution.

Rights of arrested persons under ordinary laws 

The case of DK Basu v. State of West Bengal is one of the landmark authorities which enumerate guidelines and requirements for arrests and detentions provided by the Supreme Court. There are 11 guidelines which are an addition to constitutional and statutory safeguards and do not contradict any of them. The memorandum focuses on maintaining proper and authenticated records from the side of the authority known as ‘inspection memo’. It also throws a repetitive glance upon all the other rights guaranteed to a person in custody and mentions all authorities who are bound to adhere to those. The decisions emanating from this case also led to the incorporation of Section 50A of CrPC which imposes a legal obligation on the Police to give information regarding such arrest and place where the arrested person is being held to any of his friends, relatives or such other persons as may be nominated by the arrested person for the purpose of giving such information.

(a) Right to be informed of the grounds of arrest

Section 50 of CrPC states that it is the duty of every police officer or any other person authorized to arrest any person without a warrant, to let the person being arrested know the grounds of arrest immediately. Non-compliance with this provision renders the arrest illegal.

Article 22(1) states that any person who is arrested, cannot be detained in custody without being informed of the grounds of any such arrest as soon as possible.

Both these laws clearly portray that no arrest can be made because it is lawful for the police to do so. Every arrest requires reason and justification, apart and distinct from the power to arrest. In view of this, it was held in the case of Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P. that a detained person should know the cause of his detention and is entitled to let any third person know the location of his detention.

(b) Right to be defended by a lawyer of his own choice 

Article 22(1) also states that any person who is arrested has the right to consult at all times and be defended by a lawyer of his own choice. This right is expanded right from the moment of the person’s arrest.

There are a few rights which are not explicitly mentioned but are interpreted by the Supreme Court in certain cases. In the case of Hussainara Khatoon & Ors vs Home Secretary, State Of Bihar, the courts observed that a large number of people were arrested awaiting their trial in a court of law. The arrests were made irrespective of the charge and its graveness. The accused were under arrest, deprived of their freedom even before the commencement of their trial and the charge actually being proved which stands unreasonable. The Supreme Court showing concern over the matter interpreted that speedy trial is a constitutional right although it is nowhere explicitly mentioned. It was held that an investigation should be held as soon as possible and in no case is the state permitted to deny speedy trial on any grounds. It was also stated that in cases of arrest for trivial charges the trial must be completed within six months. It was also declared that the right to free legal aid is a fundamental right which was later expressly mentioned through amendments. It was also observed that the Supreme Court had powers to enact a DPSP into a fundamental right.

Further, the court also holds a constitutional obligation to provide free legal aid to every indigent person under trial. Although this right is not mentioned under the purview of Article 22, it still witnesses a direct mention under Article 39(A) and is implicit in Article 21 of our constitution. 

Resolution of Bar Council not to defend some persons in Criminal Cases 

The right of the accused to be defended by a lawyer of his own choice was violated in the case of A.S. Mohammed Rafi v. State of Tamil Nadu, where the Bar Association of Coimbatore passed a resolution that none of its members would defend the policemen who had allegedly assaulted some lawyers. Such resolutions stood illegal as the court observed that every person, regardless of the type of accusations on him, had a right to be defended in a court of law. It was held that this resolution contradicted with the right of the accused and was also against the professional ethics of lawyers which require that a lawyer cannot refuse a brief if the client is willing to pay him and the lawyer is not engaged.

(c) Right to be produced before a Magistrate 

Article 22(2) ensures the right of the accused to be produced before a magistrate. When a person is arrested, the person or police officer making the arrest should bring the arrested person before a magistrate or judicial officer without any unnecessary delay. This is also supported by Section 56 of the CrPC.

The right available to the accused at the first stage of production before the Magistrate is not stated directly in Article 22. It is rooted in Section 167 of the CrPC and states that no magistrate can authorize the detention of the accused in police custody unless the accused is produced in person before the magistrate. This right protects the accused from being detained on wrong or irrelevant grounds.

(d) No detention beyond 24 hours except by order of the Magistrate 

Article 22(2) also states that no person who is arrested should be detained for more than 24 hours without being produced before a magistrate or judicial authority and getting the detention authorized. The mentioned 24 hours exclude the time of travel from the place of arrest to the magistrate’s court. This provision helps to keep a check on the investigation of the police regarding the matter at hand. It protects the accused from being trapped into wrongful detention.

In the case of State of Punjab v. Ajaib Singh, this right was infringed and thus the victim was provided compensation as constitutional remedy. It was held that cases of arrest without warrant require greater protection and production of the accused within 24 hours ensures the legality of the arrest, not complying with which would deem the arrest unlawful.

In the case of C.B.I. v. Anupam J. Kulkarni, it was questioned whether the accused can be remanded to police custody after the expiry of first 15 days. It was held that the magistrate could authorize the detention if he deems it fit and reasonable, but the custody cannot increase the period of 15 days on the whole. It is now known that to detain beyond a period of 15 days, an advisory board has to report sufficient cause for the extension of such detention prior to the expiration period as mentioned in clause 4 of Article 22.

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Exceptions

Clause 3 of the Article 22 clearly states that none of the rights mentioned in clause 1 and 2 of the Article would be applicable for a person who is deemed to be an enemy alien and anybody who is arrested or detained under the law providing for preventive detention.

The presence of this clause in the article has frequently questioned its constitutional validity as it takes away all the rights from a person detained under preventive detention. The cases of Maneka Gandhi v. Union Of India and A.K. Roy v. Union Of India have played major roles in giving perspective to this article. In the case of Maneka Gandhi, the scope of Article 21 was increased largely by adding the term ‘due process’ into the article. Now, upon delving into the history of preventive detention, it is known that Article 22 was inserted upon the removal of the phrase ‘due process’ from Article 21. Hence this shift greatly affected the context of Article 22 and posed direct questions on the rights and restrictions provided by the article. While in the case of A.K.Roy v. Union Of India, the court acknowledged that preventive detention laws were not only subject to Article 22 but were also open to scrutiny under Articles 14, 21 and 19. It was also observed that while Article 22 clause 3 was exclusion to clauses 1 and 2 but the right to counsel under Article 21 was still valid but since Article 22 was part of the original constitution and Article 21 was expanded and amended in Maneka Gandhi’s case, the former would prevail over the latter hence leaving the detenus scraped of their right to access legal assistance.

Preventive Detention Laws

A person can be put in jail/custody for two reasons. One is that he has committed a crime. Another is that he has the potential to commit a crime in the future. The custody arising out of the latter is preventive detention and in this, a person is deemed likely to commit a crime. Thus Preventive Detention is done before the crime has been committed.

Preventive detention also known as ‘necessary evil’ of the constitution as it can be steered in various directions and can be put to use in various scenarios, not all being just and reasonable. It is the most contentious part of the fundamental rights.The provision only mentions the rights people could exercise when they are detained but speaks nothing about any specific grounds or necessary provisions of detention. It thus gives enormous power to the authorities to twist the tool of preventive detention however and whenever they please. This has proved to be a way in which the freedom of the masses has been immensely curbed and continues to be so.

History of preventive detention 

India’s provisional parliament enacted the Preventive Detention Act in 1950. It empowered the government to detain without charge in the name of public safety and security. After facing constant criticism of violating fundamental rights and suppressing dissent, the Act lapsed in 1969 which gave way to the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). This Act was basically a change of name and constituted the same provisions. MISA was allowed to retire in 1978 following the misuse of preventive detention in the infamous emergency scenarios. After which the National Security Act was enacted, which remains in force till date. There were various other acts which focused at anti terrorism at its impact which are discussed briefly below.

Necessity of such provision 

The aim of the constitution framers to bring such provision into existence was to prevent people from disrupting the peace and stability of the society. People were detained to prevent them from undermining the sanctity of the constitution, endangering the security of the state, disturbing relations of India with foreign powers or hindering maintenance of public order.

India follows preventive detention even in times of peace, when there is no threat posed to the national security of the state, which is one of the main reasons of imposing and implementing provisions of preventive detention. While, no other civilized nation has this proposition during peacetime.

The Preventive Detention Acts 

There have been a few acts in history which have been framed by law in order to fill in the gaps and provide provisions of detention.

Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (TADA)

This law was anti-terrorism law which gave wide power to the authorities for dealing with national terrorism and socially disruptive activities. This Act provided that a person can be detained up to 1 year without formal charges or trial. A detainee can be in custody up to 60 days without being produced in front of a magistrate but instead maybe produced to executive magistrate who is not answerable to high court. This Act allowed the authorities to withhold the identities of witnesses and secret trials. The police were given enhanced powers for detention of suspects and the Act shifted the burden of proof on the accused which led to abuse of this Act and adverse effect on the democracy of the country. This Act is now repealed.

National Security Act, 1980

The purpose of this Act was to provide for preventive detention laws and matters connected therewith. The authorities, through this Act, obtain the power to detain any person who poses a threat to the security of the nation in any prejudicial manner. They can also detain any foreigner and regulate their presence in the country. Under this Act an individual can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months if the authorities are satisfied that the person is a threat to national security. The detenu can neither impose compulsion for knowing the grounds of detention nor can get a lawyer during the trial. The NSA has repeatedly come under criticism for the way it is used by the police. The Act differs from normal detention as it abrogates all rights available to the detenu in normal circumstances.

Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002

This Act aimed at strengthening anti-terrorism laws in India. This Act replaced TADA. It defined what activities could constitute a terrorist act and who a terrorist was. In order to ensure no violation of human rights and misuse of power, certain safeguards were also installed within the Act. The provisions were all similar to the ones provided in TADA. Right after the enactment of this Act it was alleged that this law was grossly abused, hence repealing it after two short years.

Constitutional safeguards against Preventive Detention Laws 

Article 22 further deals with certain rights which are provided in case of preventive detention.

(a) Review by Advisory Board: Clause 4 of the article states that no law framed for preventive detention gives authority to detain any person for more than 3 months unless; an advisory board reports a sufficient cause for such detention. The people on the advisory board should be equally qualified as that of a judge of the high court. The report needs to be submitted before the expiration of said 3 months.

(b) Communication of grounds of detention to detenu: Clause 5 of the article states that any authority while detaining any person under law providing for preventive detention shall communicate the grounds of detention to the person as soon as possible. The ground of detention should have a rational connection with the object which the detenu is prevented from attaining. The communication should provide all the material facts related to the ground and should not be a mere statement of facts.

No obligation of authority: The detaining authority is under no obligation to provide the grounds of detention to detenu prior to his arrest, but is advised to do so at the earliest thereby providing an opportunity of representation to the detenu as well.

A person already in custody can be detained when there are reasonable and sufficient causes to do so. The focal problem being that in cases of preventive detention there is no way to check whether the cause of detention is just and reasonable until it is presented to the advisory board which is applicable after the stretch of 3 months.

(c) Detenue’s Right of representation: Clause 5 of the article also states that the grounds of the detention should be communicated as soon as possible in order to enable the right of representation to the person. The authority providing the detention order shall afford to the person the earliest opportunity of making a representation against the order.

Conservation of Foreign Exchange, Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (COFEPOSA), 1974 and Article 22(5) 

This Act was brought into force in 1974 and it gave wide powers to the executive to detain individuals on apprehension of their involvement in smuggling activities. The section 3 of this Act is shared with clause 5 of Article 22 which states that the ground of detention should be communicated to the detenu within minimum five or a maximum of fifteen days. In no case should it be delayed beyond fifteen days. It must be completely furnished to the detenu, including all the facts and should not be only bare recital of the grounds. Any lapse within this provision would render the detention order void. This Act still stands valid.

No time limit prescribed for disposal of representation: The article does not provide any information about the method of dealing or disposing the representation made by the detenue. It just extends to providing the right of representation. There is no further description or time limit assigned for the end result of representation made, which can be inferred as a means to keep lingering the issue at hand and aid in wrongful detention of the person.

Exception under Article 22(6)

Clause 6 of the article is similar in nature to clause 3 as it stands an exception to clause 5 and states that the detaining authority is not mandatorily required to disclose any such facts which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose. This clause does not mention any other specifications or details within the topic and hence is regarded as the utmost arbitrary and regressive. It has no solid basis or reasoning to resonate with ‘against the public interest’ phrase and can be arbitrary to any extent.

Subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority

Clause 7 of the article is the most regressive of all clauses, it authorizes the parliament to describe the circumstances and categories of cases where detention of a person may be extended beyond three months without the opinion of the advisory board. It can also regulate the maximum period for which anyone may be detained under laws providing for preventive detention. The parliament also exercises hold on the methodology applied by the advisory board in the enquiry of detention cases. This clause provides for detention in cases of subjective satisfaction of the authority, where the element of ‘subjective satisfaction’ can be unjust and biased in any and every possible situation thus making it an equipment to mask over the legally and morally wrong detentions. Hence, this clause provides complete subjectivity and authority to the government which is the cause of arbitrary and unjust cases of wrongful detention. The authorities are at a position enough to tweak the facts and circumstances of the case to project it fair and there is no antidote for the protection of such a misery. This clause is the focal reason of criticism and misuse of this provision.

Conclusion 

Through this article we observe that preventive detention as a provision has always lacked the element of ‘check and balance’ over its establishment and practice. This provision has never aligned itself with any international human rights policies and till date continues to contradict them in some form or the other. A major concern of preventive detention is that it is a very wide provision, without any mention of specifications and limitations, which exposes it to a wider context of interpretation thereby vesting major power in the hands of authority. Hence, this provision in our constitution requires effective and deep rooted study and survey of the root cause and accordingly framing of the appropriate law which also provide for efficient and necessary check and limitation mechanisms to prevent its unjust and unconstitutional use in any scenario.

References 


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