Indian constitutional philosophy of personal liberty

Idealistic view

The constitutional philosophy of personal liberty is an idealistic view, the curtailment of liberty for reasons of States’ security, public order, disruption of national economic discipline etc. being envisaged as a necessary evil to be administered under strict constitutional restrictions. In Smt. Ichhu Devi vs. Union of India (AIR 1980 SC 1983), this judicial commitment was highlighted in the following words :

“The Court has always regarded personal liberty as the most precious possession of mankind and refused to tolerate illegal detention, regardless of the social cost involved in the release of a possible renegade”.

“This is an area where the Court has been most strict and scrupulous in ensuring observance with the requirement of the law and even where a requirement of the law is breached in the slightest measure, the Court has not hesitated to strike down the order of detention”.

In Vijay Narain Singh vs. State of Bihar (AIR 1984 SC 1334), Justice Chinnappa Reddy in his concurring majority view said :

“……I do not agree with the view that those who are responsible for the national security or for the maintenance of public order must be the sole Judges of what the national security or public requires. It is too perilous a proposition. Our Constitution does not give as carte blanche to any organ of the State to be the sole arbiter in such matter……….”

Page 1336 (of AIR)

“………There are two sentinels, one at either end. The legislature is required to mark the law circumscribing the limits within which persons may be preventively detained and providing for safeguards prescribed by the Constitution and the Courts are required to examine, when demanded, whether there has been any excessive detention, that is whether the limits set by the Constitution and the legislature have been transgressed……….”.

In Hem Lall Bhandari vs. State of Sikkim (AIR 1987 SC 762 at page 766), it was observed :

“It is not permissible in matters relating to the personal liberty and freedom of a citizen to take either a liberal or a generous view of the lapses on the part of the officers…..”.

In Sunil Fulchand Shah vs. Union of India and Ors. (2000) 3 SCC 409) a Constitution Bench of this Court observed that a person may try to abscond and thereafter take a stand that period for which detention was directed is over and, therefore, order of detention is infructuous. It was clearly held that the same plea even if raised deserved to be rejected as without substance. It should all the more be so when the detenu stalled the service of the order and/or detention in custody by obtaining orders of Court.

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