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This article is written by Prina Sharma, from Amity University, Kolkata, West Bengal. The article deals with the analysis of the Shri Bhim Singh vs. The State of J&K case in the light of false imprisonment and infringement of constitutional rights. 

Introduction

The case deals with false imprisonment, which is a state where any individual or any authority deliberately invades another person’s freedom without any legal jurisdiction or the grant of the restrained person. False imprisonment is a civil and a criminal wrong and it applies to both private as well as governmental detention. This matter is dealt with in the form of wrongful confinement in the Indian Penal Code, under Section 340. When it comes to police, the proving of false imprisonment is sufficient to obtain a writ of Habeas Corpus. The courts must not stay silent and be proactive in awarding exemplary compensation and costs to the restrained person. 

The Constitutional safeguard for the protection of arrested persons is violated by police officials in general and sometimes even Magistrates tend to neglect their duties and responsibilities and do not act by the law. A similar situation arose in the case of Bhim Singh v State of Jammu & Kashmir, headed by the bench consisting of Judges 0. Chinnappa Reddy and V. Khalid, where the petitioner, who is an MLA of Jammu & Kashmir, was illegally detained by the police while he was going to Srinagar to attend a session of the Legislative Assembly. He was deprived of his constitutional rights as he was not produced before the Magistrate within the requisite period after his arrest and also because he was prevented from attending the Session in the Legislative Assembly. There was an infringement of Article 21 and Article 22(2) of the Constitution. The detailed case is discussed further.

Facts of the case

On September 9, 1985, an FIR was registered against the petitioner, Shri Bhim Singh, under Section 153-A of the Ranbir Penal Code at the Police Station Pacca Danga, Jammu on the ground that he had delivered an inflammatory speech at a public meeting situated near Parade Ground, Jammu at 7:00 P.M. on September 8, 1985. He was arrested and detained by the police and deliberately prevented from attending the session of the Legislative Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir, which was held on 11th September 1985. Shri Bhim Singh was suspended from the Assembly on August 17, 1985, the opening day of the Budget Session of the Legislative Assembly. He brought the suspension under the notice of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir, however, the orders of his suspension were stayed by the High Court till 9th September 1985.

The Supreme Court in response to Bhim Singh’s wife’s Habeas Corpus writ had directed the Inspector General of Police to inform Smt. Jayamala where Shri Bhim Singh was held in custody. Shri Bhim Singh was released on bail, on September 16, 1985, by the learned Additional Sessions Judge of Jammu before whom he was produced. After his bail, he had filed a supplementary affidavit on 20th September 1985 stating more facts in addition to what had already been stated by his wife, Smt. Jayamala, in the petition. Simultaneously, there was a voting session going on at the assembly but he was not allowed to vote as he was refrained from going. His vote was very crucial; although the person whom he wanted to give the vote won, his right to vote was infringed.

Issues involved

  • Whether the arrest and the detention was illegal and will be qualified as false imprisonment
  • Whether the detention was a violation of the constitutional rights of the petitioner
  • Whether the petitioner is liable for exemplary compensation

Contentions of the parties 

Submissions by the plaintiff

The Petitioner contended that he was not produced before the Magistrate and the Sub – Judge (as contented by the respondents). He also mentioned that he wasn’t examined by the  Doctor and that he was treated inhumanely by the Police. Further, there was a voting session going on at the assembly but he was not allowed to vote as he was refrained from going through wrongful refrainment. His vote was very crucial; although the person whom he wanted to give the vote won, his right to vote was infringed.

Submissions by the defendant 

Shri M.M. Khajuria, the Inspector General of Police, and Shri M.A. Mird, the Superintendent of Police, Anantnag, contended that an FIR was filed against Shri Bhim Singh, under Section 153-A of the Ranbir Penal Code on 9th September 1985 at Police Station of Pacca Danga, Jammu. On 10th September 1985, a requisition for the arrest of Shri Bhim Singh was sent from the Police Control Room, Srinagar to the Superintendent of Police, Anantnag. On 11th September 1985, the Executive Magistrate First Class signed a remand to keep the petitioner, Shri Bhim Singh, for two days under police custody. On the expiry of the remand, a further remand for one day was obtained by the Inspector General of Police, Shri Khajuria, from the Sub-Judge with the reason that Shri Bhim Singh was sick (Medical Certificate attached), on 13th September 1985. The petitioner was produced before the Sub-Judge, after the expiry of the remand on 14th September 1985 and judicial custody for two days was obtained. Furthermore, again on 16th September 1985, the petitioner was produced before the Additional Sessions Judge where his bail was granted. 

Observation of the Court

Whether the arrest and the detention was illegal and will be qualified as false imprisonment

The Supreme Court, after viewing through the circumstances and listening to the contentions of the parties, concluded that the petitioner was falsely imprisoned. The Court noted that they hold no doubt about the fact that failure to file the affidavits of the two police officers, who arrested the petitioner and the one who produced the petitioner before the Magistrate was deliberate. The orders of the remand that were obtained from the Executive Magistrate of First Class and the Sub-Judge were obtained without the production of the petitioner, Shri Bhim Singh, before them. 

The Apex Court observed that the Executive Magistrate of First Class and the Sub-Judge did not seem to have been concerned about the fact that the person whom they were remanded to custody had not been produced before them and further stated that the police officers acted deliberately and mala fide and they were aided by the Magistrate and the Sub-Judge, by either colluding with them or by their casual attitude.

Whether the detention was a violation of the constitutional rights of the petitioner

The fact that the petitioner was not produced before the Magistrate on 11th September 1985 and the Sub-Judge on 13th September 1985, was a gross violation of the constitutional rights of the petitioner, Shri Bhim Singh, under Articles 21 and 22(2).

The Honourable Supreme Court observed that nobody cared to explain why Shri Bhim Singh was expected to pass through Qazi Kund, Anantnag on the night of September 9th – 10th, 1985, and why the Senior Superintendent of Police, Udhampur directed his officers to escort Bhim Singh, and who informed him about the petitioner’s arrest, suggests that Shri Bhim Singh was deliberately prevented from attending the session of the Legislative Assembly which was to take place on 11th September 1985. 

Whether the petitioner is liable for exemplary compensation

The Honourable Supreme Court noted that when someone comes to the court with a complaint that the person has been arrested and imprisoned with mischievous or malicious intent and that his constitutional and legal rights are invaded, then the mischief or malice and the invasion may not just be washed away by simply setting the person free. In cases such as this, the court has the jurisdiction to compensate the victim by awarding suitable monetary compensation. 

Judgment

The Honourable Supreme Court held that Shri Bhim Singh, the petitioner, was not produced before the Magistrate, either on 11th of September, 1985 or before the Sub-Judge on 13th of September, 1985, and he was arrested in the early hours of the morning of 10th September,1985. The Honourable Supreme Court stated that there certainly was a gross violation of Shri Bhim Singh’s constitutional rights under Articles 21 and 22(2).

The Apex Court deduced that it was expected that Bhim Singh would travel from Jammu to Srinagar on the intervening night of 9th-10th September 1985, as there was a meeting of the Assembly on 11th September 1985 and the police were sent a notice to arrest him when sighted en route to Srinagar and detain him to prevent him from proceeding to Srinagar to attend the session of the Legislative Assembly.

The honorable Supreme Court observed that “if the personal liberty of a member of the Legislative Assembly is to be played within this fashion, one can only wonder what may happen to lesser mortals.” The Supreme Court noted that two police officers, who were directly responsible for arresting the petitioner and the one who obtained the orders of remand, are just minions, in the lower rungs of the ladder. The Court stated that they do not have the slightest doubt that the responsibility of the arrest and detention lies elsewhere and with the higher echelons of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir. The Apex Court could not, however, with the materials present with them, precisely say as to where and with whom the responsibility lay.

The Honourable Supreme Court held that the constitutional rights of the petitioner, Shri Bhim Singh, were violated with impunity and he had the right to receive monetary compensation. The first respondent, the State of Jammu and Kashmir, was directed by the Apex Court to pay Shri Bhim Singh, a sum of Rs. 50,000/- within two months from the date of the judgment of the present day.  

Ratio Decidendi

The Ratio Decidendi of the case is Injuria sine damno which means violation of legal rights without causing any harm, loss, or damage to the plaintiff/petitioner. In this case, it would not be necessary to prove that as a consequence of an act, the plaintiff/petitioner has suffered any harm, it is therefore actionable. For an action to be identified as Injuria sine damno, the only thing that has to be proved is that the legal rights of the plaintiff/petitioner have been violated.

In the case of Shri Bhim Singh v The State of Jammu & Kashmir, the petitioner, Shri Bhim Singh was deprived of his legal rights. He was illegally arrested and detained, therefore preventing him from attending the assembly session and thus, depriving him of his constitutional rights. This has also resulted in the gross violation of the fundamental right to personal liberty, freedom, and life with dignity under Article 20 and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The petitioner has also stated that he was not produced before a Magistrate within a requisite period, thus violating Section 56 and Section 76 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. He also stated that he was detained for more than 24 hours, therefore infringing his legal rights.

As a result of the damages caused by the respondents to the petitioner, the Honourable Supreme Court directed the State of Jammu & Kashmir, the first respondent, to pay Rs. 50,000/- to the petitioner, Shri Bhim Singh as monetary compensation. 

Analysis

False imprisonment is a common-law misdemeanor and a tort and it is one of the most severe forms of human rights violations that occur when a person intentionally restricts another person’s movement within any area without legal authority, justification, or the restrained person’s permission. False imprisonment is composed of four ingredients which are:

–       Complete deprivation of personal liberty

–       Knowledge of restraint

–       Presence of bad intention

–       Unlawful act

The case of Shri Bhim Singh v State of Jammu & Kashmir covers all of the above ingredients and even brings to light various illegal detentions by the police officers. There were certain fundamental rights provided by the constitution which were grossly violated in this case.

The petitioner, Shri Bhim Singh, even though he had the right to be produced before a Magistrate without delay, was not produced before any Magistrate by the arresting police officer immediately after he was arrested, and was rather detained in police custody for more than the required time, thus violating Section 56 and Section 76 of the CrPC which mandates that the person arrested shall be produced before the Magistrate or the court having jurisdiction in the case without unnecessary delay. Shri Bhim Singh’s right of not being detained for more than 24 hours was infringed, since he was not produced before any Magistrate within 24 hours, excluding the time it took to travel from the place of arrest to the Magistrate’s Court. The police officers did not fulfill the requirement and hence, the arrest was unlawful according to Article 22(2) of the Indian Constitution.

Our Indian socio-legal system is based on the foundation of non-violence, mutual respect and human dignity of the individual. Even the prisoners in jail have human rights because prison torture is not the ultimate remedy to get justice, what is equally important is confessing the failure to do justice to a living being. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution recognizes the importance of human rights and Article 20 with its sub-clauses re-enforces the same and aims to protect preserve the right of the convicts from being held down due to ex post facto laws, double jeopardy, and self-incrimination in Article 20(a), (b) and (c ) respectively.

Articles 20 and 21 provide an individual with the right to personal liberty, freedom, and life with dignity and that cannot be abolished even during an emergency. Even if a convict is imprisoned and has to serve a sentence, that still doesn’t give the authorities of the jail any right to torture or harass him without any jurisdiction. People often tend to believe that prisoners are subject to intolerable hardships that are remediless. Imprisonment holds a decisive and vital factor that shall be taken into account in order to compute and award damages. Furthermore, for awarding damages for false imprisonment both physical and mental injuries are required to be kept in mind. The very fact that the person has been imprisoned raises the claim of nominal or compensatory damages, given the fact that no other injury has been caused to the plaintiff. If any person is unlawfully detained by any police officer or government officer, then he or any person on his behalf can file for the Writ of Habeas Corpus that ensures the liberty of the person who is detained. The person who is about to be falsely arrested or imprisoned can also use reasonable force such as the force of self-defense depending on the circumstance, to prevent false arrest. 

Relevant cases mentioned in the judgment by the Supreme Court 

Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar and Anr. 

Rudul Sah was arrested for murdering his wife, in the year 1953. On 3rd June 1968, he was declared innocent by the additional session judge of Muzaffarpur and was also directed to be released from prison. However, after being declared innocent, he had to serve another 14 years in prison and was finally released on 16th October 1982. His predicament was highlighted in the media in 1968 which led him to file the PIL for severe injustice.

Nevertheless, Rudul Sah was released after the PIL appeared in court. Regardless of this, they were instructed to send a notification to the State of Bihar to justify some of the prayers made by the petitioner in the appeal. The prayers are as follows:

1. The petitioner asks the government to provide clinical assistance;

2. The petitioner sought subordinate alleviation including installment for his rehabilitation;

3. Requests compensation for his illicit detainment for more than 14 years.

Although the Court stated that they wanted to respond immediately to the notice of the cause, they did not provide any justification for the prayers for 4 months. On 16th April 1983, the warden of Muzaffarpur Central Prison, Shri Alakh Deo Singh, submitted a much-delayed affidavit in compliance with the order passed on 16th October 1982. The Court stated that the accused is blameless, but should be confined in prison until further orders from the state government and the Inspector General of prison.

It is said that when Rudul Sah passed the acquittal order, he was of unsound mind, although when he sent the report to the civil surgeon, he was reported as mentally stable during the time of his acquittal. Furthermore, there lies another question as to whether it took Rudul Sah 14 years to improve upon his mental imbalance. However, the government did not provide any medical report that may support any diagnosis that may prove that he was insane, nor did they produce any evidence regarding the drugs prescribed to Rudul Sah and for how long he had been diagnosed. 

Sebestian M. Hongray v. Union of India 

In this case, the decision of the Supreme Court involved the failure of the Government to produce two persons in the court, C. Daniel and C. Paul, who were taken to the Phungrei Camp by the jawans of the 21st Sikh Regiment on March 10, 1982, and held in their custody. 

Army Authorities, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the respondents, and several other authorities failed to find the two missing persons. The Court presumed the possibility that the two persons who were held captive by the army had met an unnatural death. 

The Court, in this unfortunate circumstance, keeping in mind the torture, the agony, the mental oppression, and the irreparable loss undergone by the wives of the persons, directed the Government to pay Rs. 1 lakh to both the wives as a measure of exemplary costs. The award of compensation directed by the Court was an act done by public servants in the performance of sovereign functions. 

Conclusion

Given all the facts of the case, we can conclude that preventing someone from exercising his/her rights freely by illegally detaining the person is a cause of false imprisonment and is a gross violation of their fundamental rights. In order to protect these rights, the Constitution has provided us with writ remedies that are enforceable by the High Courts and the Supreme Court. These rights are often violated by government authorities, although in some cases private parties are also involved in the misuse of a higher power. If any person is about to be falsely arrested or imprisoned then he can use reasonable force in order to prevent false arrest. The restrained person can use the force for self-defense but it is necessary to make sure that the force used is reasonable according to the circumstances.

References


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