By Our Legal Correspondent
NEW DELHI, MARCH 29. The Supreme Court has held that the powers of the police to arrest and detain a person without a warrant not exceeding 24 hours to prevent commission of a cognisable offence could not be said to be unconstitutional.
A three-judge Bench comprising Justice N. Santosh Hegde, Justice B.P. Singh and Justice S.B. Sinha rejected a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 151 of the Cr.P.C. under which preventive detention is made. The petitioner, Ahmed Noormohamed Bhatti, had assailed the provision contending that it violated the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Bench pointed out that Section 151 provided for the circumstances in which an arrest could be made and the guidelines for such arrest were inbuilt in that provision. The Bench said those statutory guidelines along with the requirements laid down by the apex court in the Joginder Kumar and D.K. Basu cases provided an assurance that the power should not be abused. And if there was abuse, the authority concerned should be adequately punished.
Justice Singh said that Section 151 provided for arrest of a person to prevent commission of a cognisable offence only for 24 hours and if the detention was beyond 24 hours, other provisions of the Cr.P.C would apply. By no stretch of imagination it could be said that this provision was either arbitrary or unreasonable or infringing upon the fundamental right of a citizen under Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution.
On the contention of abuse of this provision, the Bench said a provision could not be held to be unreasonable or arbitrary merely because the authority vested with the power might abuse his authority. The judges noted that since several cases of abuse of the authority in matters of arrest and detention had come to its notice, the apex court had laid down the requirements to be followed by the police officials in all cases of arrest and detention.
The Bench said these requirements were in addition to the constitutional and statutory safeguards to protect the rights and dignity of the arrested person. "This court has cautioned that failure to comply with the requirements shall, apart from rendering the official concerned liable for departmental action, also render him liable to be punished for Contempt of Court," the Bench noted and dismissed the petition.
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