While Kanchan Verma was leaving her workplace with Nasir Ali, a crowd gathered around as Verma’s family tried to stop her. The family reportedly opposed their relationship on the basis of religion. Verma and Nasir, a Hindu woman and a Muslim man, were detained under Section 151 of Cr.P.C. (“Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences”). Verma filed a petition of habeas corpus claiming she was being wrongly detained. After a month in detention on the sub-divisional magistrate’s orders, the Allahabad High Court affirmed that her detention was unconstitutional and ordered her immediate release.
This petition has been filed by Smt. Kanchan Verma… alleging that she has wrongly been detained in Nari Niketan at Moradabad.
[T]he Sub-Inspector … had submitted two reports on 27th April, 2015 under Section 151 Cr.P.C. alleging that he … found in front of Ramabai Degree College that there was a gathering of several persons in which the parents of the petitioner Kanchan Verma were resisting the petitioner from allowing her to go with Nasir Ali. A crowd had gathered and since there was an apprehension of breach of peace, the petitioner along with Nasir Ali were produced before the Sub-Divisional Magistrate.
The order of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate indicates that the petitioner is an adult, a divorcee and living with her parents. The petitioner is a Hindu and has fallen in love with Nasir Ali, a Muslim by religion. The order further indicates that Nasir Ali is married and has four children and that Nasir Ali’s wife is opposed to this relationship. The impugned order further records that the petitioner’s father, mother and brother are also against this relationship but, the petitioner, in her statement, has recorded that she wants to live with Nasir Ali. Nasir Ali has also stated that he will look after the welfare of the petitioner and would like to marry her.
The petitioner was produced before this Court and she made a statement in Court that she has been sent to Nari Niketan against her wishes since 27th April, 2015 and her freedom has been curtailed on account of this illegal detention. She further stated before us that she was teaching in Northern India Public School, Gajraula and has not been allowed to go to the school to give her lectures. The petitioner further stated that she is an adult and she wants to live with Nasir Ali, in spite of the fact that he is a married man.
The question for determination … is whether the detention of the petitioner in Nari Niketan is in accordance with law. … Article 21 of the Constitution [guarantees] that the executive cannot deprive a person of his life or personal liberty without authority of law. … The Supreme Court further held that even in the absence of Article 21 of the Constitution, the State has no power to deprive a person of his life or liberty without the authority of law.
The report in the instant case has been given by the Sub-Inspector under Section 151 Cr.P.C. For facility, the said provision is extracted hereunder:-
(1) A police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest, without orders from a Magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing, if it appears to such officer that the commission of the offence cannot be otherwise prevented.
(2) No person arrested under sub-section (1) shall be detained in custody for a period exceeding twenty-four hours from the time of his arrest unless his further detention is required or authorised under any other provisions of this Code or of any other law for the time being in force.”
A perusal of the aforesaid provision indicates that a power has been given to the Police Officer to arrest a person in order to prevent a commission of a cognizable offence. In the instant case, we find that the ingredients of Section 151 Cr.P.C. are totally lacking. The report does not indicate any cognizable offence that may occur.
In the light of the aforesaid, we find that … there was no occasion for the Magistrate to detain her in a Nari Niketan. This order, in our opinion, is patently without any authority of law.
We are of the opinion that the liberty to move, mix, mingle, talk, share through company cannot be substantially curtailed and the action taken was totally violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.
[W]e are of the opinion that the action of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate was not only arbitrary but there was total deprivation of the personal liberty of the petitioner, which was issued without any authority of law… We find there is no legal justification for the detention of the petitioner and, accordingly, we issue a writ of habeas corpus … to release the petitioner forthwith. The Superintendent of Police, Amroha will ensure that the petitioner is escorted and taken to her parents residence from where the petitioner would be at liberty to live either with her parents or live according to her own choice and freewill.
We are of the opinion that the liberty to move, mix, mingle, talk, share through company cannot be substantially curtailed and the action taken was totally violative of Article 21 of the Constitution. …[W]e are of the opinion that the action of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate was not only arbitrary but there was total deprivation of the personal liberty of the petitioner, which was issued without any authority of law.