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Hetchin Haokip Vs. State of Manipur and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (20 Jul 2018)

Detaining authority must furnish report of detention at the earliest possible and any delay in the same must be supported by unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of authority



Present proceedings have arisen from the judgment of a High Court. The Appellant's contention was that, the District Magistrate failed to report the detention to the State Government "forthwith," as provided under Section 3(4) of the National Security Act, 1980 . The question before the High Court was whether the provisions of Section 3(4) of the Act, 1980, requiring the detaining authority to report the detention to the State Government 'forthwith,' have been violated.

It is settled law that, a statute providing for preventive detention has to be construed strictly. While "forthwith" may be interpreted to mean within reasonable time and without undue delay, it certainly should not be laid down as a principle of law that as long as the report to the State Government is furnished within 12 days of detention, it will not prejudice the detenu. Under Section 3(4) of Act, the State Government is required to give its approval to an order of detention within twelve, or as the case may be, fifteen days.

The detaining authority must furnish the report at the earliest possible. Any delay between the date of detention and the date of submitting the report to the State Government, must be due to unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the authority and not because of administrative laxity.

In the present case, the District Magistrate submitted the report to the State Government on the fifth day (17 July 2017), after the date of the detention order (12 July 2017). The reason for the delay of five days is neither mentioned in the State Government's order confirming the detention order, nor in the impugned judgment. It was for the District Magistrate to establish that, he had valid and justifiable reasons for submitting the report five days after passing the order of detention. Whether there were administrative exigencies which justify the delay in sending the reports must be explained by the detaining authority. In the present case, the District Magistrate offered no explanation. This would vitiate the order of detention. The impugned judgment and order of the High Court set aside. The appeal is accordingly allowed.


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