Rudul Sah vs. State of Bihar (1983)

Author: Mansi Rana

Rudul Sah vs. State of Bihar(1983) 4 SCC 141


                HON’BLE JUSTICE A. N. SEN

                HON’BLE JUSTICE R. B. MISRA





In 1953, Rudul Sah was arrested for murdering his wife. On June 3, 1968, the additional session judge of Muzaffarpur declared him innocent, and he directed his release from prison. After being acquitted, he had to serve another 14 years in prison and was finally released from prison on October 16, 1982. His plight was emphasized in the media in 1968 and led him to file the PIL for serious injustice.

However, Rudul Sah was released when PIL appeared in court. Despite this, they were instructed to send a notification to the State of Bihar to explain some of the prayers made by the appellant in the petition. The prayers are as follows: 1. The petitioner asks the government to provide medical services; 2. The petitioner sought ancillary relief including payment for his rehabilitation; 3. Requests compensation for his illegal imprisonment for more than 14 years. The court also stated that they wanted to respond promptly to the notice of the cause, but they did not provide any explanation within 4 months. On April 16, 1983, Shri Alakh Deo Singh, the warden of Muzaffarpur Central Prison, submitted an affidavit in compliance with the order. The learned additional session judge passed the following order:

“The accused is acquitted, but should be detained in prison until further orders from the state government and the inspector general of prison.”

It is said that Rudul Sah was of unsound mind when he passed the acquittal order, although when he sent the report to the civil surgeon, he reported that Rudul Sah was mentally healthy at the time of his acquittal. In addition, another question is whether it took 14 years to correct his mental imbalance. However, the government did not produce any medical reports to support any diagnosis of whether he was insane, nor they provided any evidence as to which drugs were prescribed and how long he was diagnosed.


  • Whether the Supreme Court can award compensation under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution for breach of a fundamental right or not?
  • Does Article 21 cover the right to compensation for violations of fundamental rights?


The court issued a clear notice of reason to the government, asking why the petitioner was sentenced to 14 years in prison even after his acquittal. It also instructed the state to explain why the reply he received was greatly delayed and provided evidence for the government to claim that he was of unsound mind. The court further asked whether he was indeed insane, and to provide a skeleton medical record to prove that he was being treated for insanity. However, there is no evidence that the defendant was insane when he was acquitted. In addition, even if he was actually mad when he was acquitted, he could not be imprisoned for a long time. The reason is simple. Even a lunatic has certain legal rights to the trial process. The court held that the States ’response was ruthless and has no factual basis. Therefore, the court held that the petitioner ’s detention was totally unjustified.

Next, the court reviewed whether the petitioner ’s request for auxiliary relief could be ruled on the basis of its right to remedy. The court held that if the court was limited to releasing unlawful detainees by order without doing anything to improve their lives, Article 21, which guarantees the right to life and personal freedom, would be deprived of its meaning. The court held

“The right to compensation is a palliative means for acts of illegal instruments that act in the name of the public interest. These acts of illegal instruments act in the name of the public interest and provide the state with power as a shield.”

The court held that the compensation is palliative in order to give the right to life under article 21 a better meaning. It also stated that the right to enforce the law enforcement power was transferred to the Supreme Court under Article 32. The right specified in the third part of the Constitution is itself a basic right.

Therefore, the court ’s final judgment was that it ordered the state to pay the petitioner 30,000 rupees as an interim measure in addition to the 5,000 rupees already paid.


Rudul Shah’s case is a landmark case in the field of state liability. It is considered to be particularly important because it led to the emergence of compensatory jurisprudence for violations of fundamental rights under the Constitution. In this case, it is noteworthy that the Indian Constitution does not clearly provide for the award of compensation and that the judgment is based on the court ’s interpretation of the scope of its right to remedy. This is the first case since the establishment of the Supreme Court, which paid someone monetary compensation for violating the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Victims have the right to claim damages in the civil law of torts, which is complementary to monetary compensation and not excluded. It emphasizes the inefficiency of the individual responsible for the life and freedom of the citizens he has promised to serve, and this inefficiency not only damages the individual but also the foundation of the democratic government. This case highlights the fate of a person. Rudul Sah was punished for something he did not do, but because the system he relied on caused him to fail in the worst possible way.

The government will begin to act in a way that they are aware of the violation of Rudul Sah ’s rights and take fair and prompt action. They do not abide by the law but abide by the principles of the law. They take a rational and sympathetic approach, rather than a purely systematic approach. They did not hesitate to call out the government on what they, quite rightly, thought was a grave miscarriage of justice. They did call out the government of Bihar on their callous and insensitive response to the plight of the petitioner during his trial. They also criticized the way the government threw the Jailor under the bus and took no responsibility for their own actions.

Also, there was a suggestion of a system of checks and balances that could prevent the repetition of such incidents. This was specifically for the state of Bihar because it had been in turmoil over the mess that was its penitentiary system at that time. However, it would serve all states well to adopt and further build on the Courts proposal to prevent the repetition of such terrible incidents.

Also, I think the compensation provided is quite low. The amount Rs. 30,000 in addition to the already paid Rs. 5000 is nothing but a mockery of justice. This amount is not enough to make up for the loss of 14 years and the resulting physical injury and mental pain caused to the victim. But, according to the court this is just a palliative measure. The court should have taken some proper measures while looking into such incidents as mere compensation cannot resolve the damages faced by the petitioner and all this because of their conduct which caused this huge miscarriage of justice. Also, the court should have ordered a proper inquiry in this case so that proper justice could have been delivered. As there is a saying “Justice should not only be done, but it should be seen to be done”.

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