Rattan Singh Vs. State of Punjab &
Ors  INSC 183 (22 October 1981)
CHANDRACHUD, Y.V. ((CJ) CHANDRACHUD, Y.V.
((CJ) VARADARAJAN, A. (J) SEN, AMARENDRA NATH (J)
CITATION: 1982 AIR 1 1982 SCR (1)1010 1981
SCC (4) 481 1981 SCALE (3)1625
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1984 SC1095 (10) RF 1990 SC 231 (17) C
1991 SC1983 (6)
Conservation of Foreign Exchange and
Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act 1974-Petitioner's representation to
Central Government submitted through Jail Superintendent not forwarded-Effect of-Scope
of power of Central Government under section 11(1).
The petitioner, who was detained under
section 3(1) of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling
Activities Act, 1974 made (on April 19,1981) through the Jail Superintendent
representation simultaneously to the State Government as well as the Central
Government against the order of his detention. In his petition under Article 32
of the Constitution he contended that the failure of, the Central Government to
consider his representation inspite of the long passage of time had rendered
his detention illegal The Jail Superintendent in his affidavit stated that the
representation was forwarded to the State Government.
The State Government after considering his
representation rejected it.
Allowing the petitions
HELD: The detention is illegal. [1012 F] The
petitioner had been unaccountably deprived of a valuable right to defend and
assert his fundamental right to personal liberty. Laws of preventive detention
afford only a modicum of safeguards to person detained under them and if
freedom and liberty are to have any meaning in our democratic set up it is
essential that at least those safeguards are not denied to the detenu. If the
power conferred on the Central Government by section 11(1) of the Act to revoke
an order of detention even if it was made by the State Government or its
officers is to be rial and effective, it must imply the right in a detenu to
make a representation to the Central Government against the order of detention.
In the instant case the failure on the part either of the Jail Superintendent
or the State Government to forward the detenu's representation to the Central
Govern- ment has deprived him of the valuable right. to have his detention
revoked by that Government. [1012 C-F] Tara Chand v. State of Rajasthan, 
2 S.C.C. 321 and Shyam Ambalal Siroya v. Union of India, [1980 2 S.C.C.
346, referred to.
ORlGlNAL JURlSDlCTlON: Writ Petition Nos.
3614 & 3647 of 1981.
Harjinder Singh for the Petitioner.
N. S. Das Bahl and M. S. Dhillon for
Respondent No. 1.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
CHANDRACHUD, C.J.: By this petition under Article 32 of the Constitution the
petitioner challenges the validity of an order dated March 27, 1981 passed by
respondent 1, the State of Punjab, under section 3(1) of the Conservation of
Foreign enchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974.
On April 19, 1981, while the petitioner was
in detention, his advocate, Shri Harjinder Singh, wrote a letter to the
Superintendent of Central Jail, Amritsar, enclosing therewith two
representations drafted on behalf of the petitioner, one of which was addressed
to D the Joint Secretary, Department of Home, Government of Punjab, Chandigarh,
and the other to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Finance, Department of
Revenue, New 'Delhi. The Jail Superintendent was requested by the aforesaid
letter that the representations be forwarded to the State Government and the
Central Government after obtaining the signatures of the detenu thereon. The
contention of the petitioner is that in spite of the long passage of time, the
representation to the Central Government has not so far been considered by it,
rendering his detention illegal.
In his counter-affidavit dated July 29, 1981,
the Under Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Finance (Department
of Revenue), COFEPOSA Unit, New Delhi says that "no representation by or
on behalf of the detenu relating to his detention has been received by the
As such, the question of any delay in the
disposal of such a representation does not arise". In his affidavit dated
July 21, 1981 the P.P.S. (1), Superintendent, Central Jail, Amritsar says that
the representation of the detenu Rattan Singh was forwarded to the Punjab
Government. The affidavit of Smt. Shyama Mann, Joint Secretary to Government, Punjab,
Home Department, Chandigarh shows that the representation of the detenu was
considered by the Government of Punjab and was rejected on April 28, 1981.
1012 There is no difficulty in so far as the
representation to the Government of Punjab is concerned. But the unfortunate
lapse on the part of the authorities is that they overlooked totally the
representation made by the detenu to the Central Government. The
representations to the State Govermnent and the Central Government were made by
the detenu simultaneously through the Jail Superintendent. The Superintendent
should either have for warded the representations separately to the Governments
concerned or else he should have forwarded them to the State Government with a
request for the onward transmission of the other representation to the Central
Government. Some one tripped somewhere and the representation addressed to the
Central Government was apparently never forwarded to it, with the inevitable
result that the detenu has been unaccountably deprived of a valuable right o
defend and assert his fundamental right to personal liberty. May be that the
detenu is a smuggler whose tribe (and how their numbers increase !) deserves no
sympathy since its activities have paralysed the Indian economy. But the laws
of preventive detention afford only a modicum of safeguards to persons detained
under them and if freedom and liberty are to have any meaning in our democratic
set-up, it is essential that at least those safeguards are not denied to the
Section 11 (1) of COFEPOSA confers upon the
Central Government the power to revoke an order of detention even if it is made
by the State Government or its officer. That power, in order to be real and
effective, must imply the right in a detenu to make a representation to the
Central Government against the order of detention. The failure in this case on
the part either of the Jail Superintendent or the State Government to forward
the detenu's representation to the Central Government has deprived the detenu
of the valuable right to have his detention revoked by that Government. The
coutinued detention of the detenu must therefore be held illegal and the detenu
In Tata Chand v. State of Rajasthan(1), it
was held by this Court that even an inordinate delay on the part of the Central
Government in consideration of the representation of a detenu would be in
violation of Article 22(5) of the Constitution, thereby rendering the detention
unconstitutional In Shyam Anbalal Siroya v. Union of India(2) this Court held
that when a properly addressed representation is made by the detenu to the
Central Government for 1013 revocation of the order of detention, a statutory
duty is cast upon the Central Government under section 11, COFEPOSA to apply
its mind and either revoke the order of detention or dismiss the petition and
that a petition for revocation of an order of detention should be disposed of
with reasonable expedition. Since the representation was left unattended for
four months, the continued detention of the detenu was held illegal. In our
case, the representation to the Central Government was not forwarded to it at
These then are our reasons for the order
dated October 1, 198 1 whereby we directed that the detenu be released, Writ
Petition No. 3647 of 1981. C For the reasons given above in Writ Petition No.
3614 of 1981, this Petition must also succeed and the detenu set at liberty as
directed in our order dated October 1. It was on July 2, 1981 that the detenu
made a representation to the Central Government through the Superintendent of
Jail, Amritsar, and it is not denied that the representation has still not been
considered by that Government. The counter- affidavit of the Under Secretary to
the Government of India shows that the representation made by the detenu was
not forwarded at all to the Central Government which explains the statement in
the affidavit that no representation was received by the Central Government and
that therefore the question of delay in consideration of the representation did
P.B.R. Petitions allowed.