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Punjab and Haryana High Court warns against misuse, tightens criteria for preventive detention

The court emphasised that the orders were required to be backed by credible evidence and public interest, rather than mere suspicion

Punjab and Haryana High Court warns against misuse, tightens criteria for preventive detention

The court further clarified that a proximate and live link between a person’s past conduct and the necessity for detention was crucial.



Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik  

Chandigarh, July 6

Amidst rising concerns over preventive detention practices, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has made it clear that such orders must comply with stringent legal standards and safeguards. The court emphasised that the orders were required to be backed by credible evidence and public interest, rather than mere suspicion. The bench added the proportionality of the detention, availability of alternate measures, and adherence to procedural timelines and safeguards were essential to validate such orders.

The court further clarified that a proximate and live link between a person’s past conduct and the necessity for detention was crucial. Orders based on stale causes or excessive delays were deemed invalid. The decision-making process was required to be objective, supported by cogent material, rather than subjective perceptions. Any preventive detention order failing to meet the stringent criteria violated the fundamental rights and was, therefore, invalid.

The 141-page ruling by Justice Vinod S Bhardwaj comes at a time when preventive detention practices are increasingly being scrutinised by legal experts, human rights organisations, and the judiciary for potential misuse. 

Justice Bhardwaj was hearing a bunch of nine petitions filed against the State of Haryana and other respondents. In one of the pleas, the petitioner was seeking the quashing of an order by the respondent-State for his preventive detention under the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. The detention order was based on the petitioner’s alleged involvement in six other cases registered under the NDPS Act.

Justice Bhardwaj asserted such order must be evaluated based on the existing legal framework and statutory requirements for directing preventive detention, supported by reasonable grounds justifying such action. The competent authority’s satisfaction was required to be grounded in credible evidence rather than mere suspicion and must be driven by public interest.

A review of the provisions and precedents established that adherence was mandatory to the prescribed timelines and evolved safeguards. Preventive detention was not a form of punishment. Justice Bhardwaj observed: “Where the satisfaction of the authority is not based upon a live and proximate link between the past conduct of a person and the imperative need to detain, such detention is deemed as based on a stale cause and the orders of preventive detention held to be bad”.

Similarly, inordinate delay in issuing the preventive detention order from the date the proposal was initiated rendered the detention order invalid. The grounds for invoking preventive detention might vary across statutes. But the safeguards outlined in the Constitution supplemented those provided under specific laws.

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