Author: Mr. Vikram Nagpal from Himachal Pradesh National Law University, Shimla.
BHIM SINGH v. STATE OF JAMMU & KASHMIR
AIR 1986 SC 494, 1986 CriLJ 192, 1985 (2) SCALE 1117, (1985) 4 SCC 677, 1986 (1) UJ 458 SC
O C Reddy, V Khalid
An arrest made without reasonable suspicion and the person arrested is concerned in a cognizable offence, can give rise to a claim for damages for false imprisonment. Considering the needs of the day where Ex facie illegal arrest is made without any rhyme or reason and in total abuse of the power, Courts are not lagging behind in awarding suitable compensation and exemplary cost to the ultimate sufferer. In such situations, Courts are not supposed to remain silent spectators. For the wrongful arrest of a group of persons under section 151of Criminal Procedure Code, the police were directed to pay Rs.10000 as compensation to every individual arrested person. Where it is shown that a person was arrested and imprisoned with mischievous and malicious intent the Court shall have the power to compensate the sufferer by awarding suitable monetary compensation and exemplary cost. The Constitutional safeguard for the protection of arrested persons is in general violated by police officials and sometimes, Magistrate may also neglect to act in accordance with the law and such situation arose in Bhim Singh vs. State.
BACKGROUND AND FACTS
Mr. Bhim Singh an MLA of Jammu and Kashmir was arrested and detained in police custody and was deliberately prevented from attending the Sessions of the legislative assembly to be held on 11th September 1985. He was arrested on an intervening night between 9th and 10th September 1985 by the station house officer of Quiz Kunda police station, on the allegation that a case under section 153A of Ranbir Penal Code was registered against him for delivering an inflammatory speech at the public meeting held near parade ground, Jammu on 8th September 1985. He has not produced before the Magistrate till 13th September. As his whereabouts were not known his wife filed a writ of Habeas Corpus before the Supreme Court. On the inquiry of the SupremeCourt, it was found that Mr. Bhim Singh was illegally detained by the police personnel, aided either by collusion or by a casual attitude with the Magistrate, who ordered for remand without production of the arrested person before him. The Court pointed out that the Magistrate acted without any sense of responsibility or genuine concern for the personal liberty and the police arrested the imprisoned with mischievous and malicious intent and it was certainly was a gross violation of the constitutional right of the accused person under article 21 and 22(2).
Whether the detention was illegal and qualified as false imprisonment?
The Court observed that the police officers acted in a most high handed way and opined “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”.Further, reminded the duties of “police officers who are the custodians of law and order should have the greatest respect for personal liberty of citizens and should not float the laws by stopping to such weird acts of lawlessness. Custodian of law and order should not become depredators of civil liberties. Their duty is to protect and to abduct.” Chinnappa Reddy J. and Khalid J. followed the decision of Supreme Court inRudulSah and Sebastian Hongray cases and expressed the view that when a person comes to us with the complaint that he has been arrested and imprisoned with mischievous and malicious intent and that his Constitutional and legal rights were invaded, the mischief or malice and invasion may not be washed away or whisked-away by his being set free. In appropriate cases, we have the jurisdiction to compensate the victim by awarding suitable monetary compensation. We consider this an appropriate case. We direct the first respondent the State of Jammu and Kashmir to pay Sri.Bhim Singh a sum of Rs. 50,000 within two months from today.
The tort of false imprisonment is one of the most severe forms of human rights violation. The Indian socio-legal system is based on non-violence, mutual respect and human dignity of the individual. Even the prisoners have human rights because the prison torture is not the last drug in the Justice Pharmacopoeia but a confession of failure to do justice to a living man. In fact, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution also recognizes the same. Article 20 with its sub-clauses re-enforces the same and seeks to protect convicts from being held down due to ex post facto laws (Art. 20 (a)), double jeopardy (Art. 20 (b)) and self-incrimination (Art. 20 (c)).
The right of a person to personal liberty, freedom, and life with dignity has been guaranteed by the Constitution under Articles 20 and 21 cannot be abrogated even during an emergency, and false imprisonment is incongruous of the same. The fact that a convict is imprisoned and has to serve a sentence, doesn’t give the jail authorities any right to torment or torture him unnecessarily. It is a false notion that the prisoner subject to intolerable hardships is remediless. The term of imprisonment is a decisive and vital factor to be taken into consideration in order to compute and award damages. And while awarding damages for false imprisonment physical or mental injury has to be kept in mind. The mere fact that the person has been imprisoned raises the claim of nominal or compensatory damages if no other injury was caused to the plaintiff. If the person is unlawfully confined by any police officer or government officer, then he or any person on his behalf can file for the writ of habeas corpus. The writ ensures the liberty of the person who is confined. The person who is about to be falsely arrested or imprisoned can also use reasonable force in order to prevent false arrest. He can use force for self-defense but has to make sure that the force used is reasonable according to the circumstances.
Social and economic justice is the signature tune of the Indian Constitution. It guarantees fundamental rights which cannot be ordinarily derogated from. In protecting these rights, the Constitution has provided for writ remedies enforceable by the High Courts and the Supreme Court. Often These rights are violated by the state, though in some cases private parties may also be involved. An important dimension of these remedies is the award of compensation as part of the relief that can be granted to the affected person. This arises from the fact that not only does the state have a legal duty in protecting the rights guaranteed, but also a social duty to compensate the affected when the state violates these rights. Through the various decisions of the Courts in India, it may be stated that this dream of human rights enthusiasts is now an obligation of the state. The rights have been interpreted to imply a contract between the State and the citizens, a breach of which may be regressive monetarily.