Madhu Limaye Vs. The Superintendent,
Tihar Jail, Delhi & Ors  INSC 37 (19 February 1975)
MATHEW, KUTTYIL KURIEN GOSWAMI, P.K.
CITATION: 1975 AIR 1505 1975 SCR (3) 582 1975
SCC (4) 148
Constitution Article 32--Habeas
Corpus--Punjab Jail Manual--Racial discrimination beteen Indian and European
prisoners--Whether question raised can be determined if detenu released.
The petitioner filed the present Habeas
Corpus Petition challenging his detention. The petitioner also challenged the
provisions of the Punjab Jail Manual which creates artificial discrimination
between Indian and European prisoners in the matter of treatment and diet. The
respondent contended that since the petitioner has been released the petition
has become infructuous. The petitioner cited various authorities of this Court
as well as of the Supreme Court of United States that where issues of great
moment affecting liberty of the citizen are involved the decision should not be
avoided even though the immediate prohibition' which led to the filing of the
writ petition has for the time being disappeared.
HELD : The Court would not decide the issue
for two reasons.
Firstly, the petitioner is no longer in
prison, and, secondly, the Leamed Solicitor General assured the Court that he
would draw attention of the Punjab Government to the need for revision of the
impugned rules from the point of view of racial equality. The court hoped that
the State Government would take up the reform of the law, eluminate the vice of
inequality and update the regulations to be in keeping with the spirit and
letter of the paramount law.
[583D-E] Petition dismissed.
ORIGINAL JURISDICTION: Writ Petition No. 318
Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution
Santok Singh, for the Petitioner.
L. N. Sinha and R. N. Sachthey, for
Respondents Nos. 1 & 3.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by :
KRISHNA IYER, J.-Shri Madhu Limaya, M.P.
moved this petition while he was prisoner, imbued more by the pro bono publico
sphit than perhaps by his own invidious lot in jail. The gravamen of this
public grievance in that a long silver jubilee span of years. having elapsed
after India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic. it is obnoxious that racial
discrimination, smacking of colonial hangover, should stubbornly resist arts.
14 & 15 of the Constitution and survive in the Punjab Jail Manual. If it
were so, it were a matter to blush for, but the preliminary objection raised by
the Solicitor General is that the petitioner having been freed from prison
years ago, this Court should not be invited into an academic exercise on a
of course, he concedes that the Court is not
deprived of jurisdiction by the cessation of incarceration. An inflexi- ble
rule that as soon as a custodial term or prohibitory order expires the Court
will not investigate its legality may well immunize ephemeral illegality
against judicial review on unwitting infraction of the amplitude of the Court's
powers. But there are cases and cases.
583 Mr. Santok Singh, for the petitioner, has
brought to Our notice decisions of this Court and of the Supreme Court of the
United States to press home his point that issues of such great moment
affecting the liberty of the citizens should not be avoided even though the
immediate prohibition which has led to the' writ petition has, or the time
being, disappeared (See Carroll v. Commissioners of Princess Anne(1) and United
States v. Phosphate Export Asso(2); also Madhu Limaye V. Ved Murti(s) and Himat
Lal K. Such v. Commr. of,-Police, Ahmadabad(4).
The thrust of the charge of
unconstitutionality made bv Sri Madhu Limaye consists in the artificial
discrimination between Indian and European prisoners in the matter of treatment
and diet, going by the rules he has set out in his petition. it is true that
many laws which do not square with the equality enshrined in Arts. 14 and 15
die hard until pronounced dead by the 'Court Prima facie the rules quoted are
neither fair on their face nor equal in their bosom, as between. Indians and
Europeans., This white-complex has no right to remain extent in the rules,
according to counsel for the petitioner. We have drawn the attention of the
Solicitor General to what appears to be an obsolete but overlooked
discrimination. We are not inclined to examine this matter more incisively for
two reasons. The petitioner is 'no longer in prison. Even so may-be the matter
can be competently scrutinized from the constitutional angle by this Court. But
the learned Solicitor General assures us that he will draw the 'attention of
the Punjab Government to the need for revision of the impugned rules from the
point of view of racial equality. In the light of this submission we hope the
State Government will take up the reform of the law, lop off dead wood,
eliminate the vice of inequality and update the regulations to be in keeping
with the spirit and letter of the paramount law.
In- view of this attitude of the Solicitor
General, counsel for tile petitioner himself expressed that he was not keen on
going on with the case. We hope that the above observations would be sufficient
for the high purpose the petitioner has in view.
We. accordingly dismiss the petition.
P.H.P. Petition dismissed.
(1) 21 L. Ed. 2d. 325.
(2) 21. L Ed. 2nd. 344.
(3) A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 2481.
(4)  1 S.C.C. 227, 232 470SupCI/75.