Devi for Ram Ratan Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 363
(6 December 1988)
K.J. (J) Shetty, K.J. (J) Oza, G.L. (J)
1989 AIR 371 1988 SCR Supl. (3)1023 1989 SCC (1) 385 JT 1988 (4) 587 1988 SCALE
Security Act, 1980,s. 3--Detenus--Two police personnel in Security
Unit--Offence committed u/s 392/34 I.
An isolated criminal act--Does not disturb `public order'--`Public Order' and
`law and order'--Distinction between.
in the writ petitions filed by the petitioners under Article 32 of the
Constitution, belonged to the Security Unit of Delhi Police. While on duty,
they were alleged to have stopped a rickshaw puller who was carrying some goods
to a transport company. They caught hold of him and started beating him and
asked for a receipt for the goods. Thereafter they removed the goods from the
rickshaw and went away in a T.S.R. The aforesaid goods was recovered from their
possession and a case under Section 392/34 I.P.C. was registered against them.
Thereafter they were arrested and placed under suspension. The court, however,
released them on bail. While the case was under investigation. the Commissioner
of Police, Delhi detained them u/s 3(2) of the
National Security Act, 1980 on the ground that the above criminal activity of
the detenu has created a sense of insecurity in the minds of public at large
and is pre-judicial to that maintenance of public order.
contended on behalf of the petitioners that the said orders are bad in law,
since the ground of detention has no nexus to the`public order', but purely a
matter for `law and order'. Counsel for the respondents, on the other hand
argued that though the incident in question was a simple case of robbery, since
it was committed by persons to longing to the disciplined police force, it
would of certainly disturb the public safety in the life of the community with
a sense of insecurity in their minds and therefore the detention orders were
the writ petitions,
(1) The orders of detention are quashed. The detenu Ram Ratan and Hawa Singh
are set at liberty forthwith. [1030F] PG NO 1023 PG NO 1024 (2) The law of
preventive detention is not different to police personnel. It is the same law
that is applied to police as well as to public. Therefore, this Court cannot
apply a different standard in respect of acts individually committed by any
police officer. [1027D] 3(i) The subjective satisfaction of the detaining
authority with respect to the persons sought to be detained should be based
only on the nature of the activities disclosed by the grounds of detention. The
grounds of detention must have nexus with the purpose for which the detention
is made. [1027E] 3(ii) The impact on `public order' and `law and order' depends
upon the nature of the act, the place where it is committed and motive force
behind it. If the act is confined to an individual without directly or
indirectly affecting the tempo of the life of the community, it may be matter
of law and order only. But where the gravity of the act is otherwise and likely
to endanger the public tranquility, it may fall within the orbit of the `public
order'. What might be an otherwise simple `law and order' situation might
assume the gravity and mischief of a `public-order' problem by reason alone of
the manner of circumstances in which or the place at which it is carried-out.
Necessarily, much depends upon the nature of the act, the place where it is
committed and the sinister significance attached to it.
In the instant case, the offence was committed by two misguided police men
under the cover of darkness with the assistance of a member of the public. It
is an isolated criminal case with no sinister significance attached to it.
certainly suicidal to those two police personnel. But it seems to that 110
connection whatsoever to disturb the public order' having regard to the
circumstances of the case. [1030D-E] Superintendent, Central Prison, Fatehgarh
v. ram Manohar Lohia,  2 SC 821; Ayya Alias Ayub v. The State of U.P, Aziz v. The Distt. Magistrate Burdwan & Ors.,
 2 SCR 646 and Mohd. Dhana Ali Khan v. State of West Benal,.  Suppl.
SC 124 followed.
ORIGINAL JURISDICTION: Writ Petition (crl) Nos. 353 and 491 of 1988.
Article 32 of the Constitution of India).
for the Petitioners.
1025 V.C. Mahajan, Mrs. A. Katiyar, Dalveer Bhandari and Ms. Subhashini for the
Judgment of the Court was delivered by K. JAGANNATHA SHETTY, J. These two
petitions under Art, of the Constitution are for issue of a writ of Habeas
Corpus for the release of Ram Ratan and Hawa Singh, who have been detained
under sec. 3(2) of the National Security Act of 1980.
was a Head Constable and Hawa Singh was a Constable in the Security Unit of
Delhi Police. While on duty, they were together said to have committed a
cognizable Offence under Sec. 392/34 of IPC along with a member of the public.
Immediately thereafter they were arrests and placed on suspension. The Court.
however released them on bail While the case was under investigation the
Commissioner of Police, Delhi (Mr. Vijay Karan) thought fit the detam them
under the National Security Act. Accordingly. he made them orders which are
impugned herein. Subsequently. they have been summarily dismissed from service
under Article 3 11(ii)(b) of the Constitution.
principal contention urged for the petitioners relates to the oft-repeated
question--that the ground of detention has no nexus to the `public order ' but
purely a matter for "law and order".
order to appreciate the contention urged in this regard it will be necessary to
have regard to the orders of detention. The orders passed against the two detenu
are on different dates,but are similar in terms and it may be sufficient if we
refer to one of the orders. The ground of detention in each case relates to one
incident which has been stated as follows:
on 22.7.88, one Shri Jasbil Singh S/o Shri Inder Singh R/o 5869/3 Ambala City (Haryana) reported that on 21.7.88 he purchased some T.V.
parts from Lajpat Rai Market.
purchase, he loaded the TV parts on rickshaw and asked the rickshaw puller Shanker
S.o Shri Vasudev R/o Old Lajpat Rai Market. Near Hanuman Mandir, who was known
to him to take the parts to Patiala Transport near Libra Service Station G.T.K. Road. He himself went alone to Patiala
Transport and waited for the rickshaw puller. At about 11.00 pm. the rickshaw
puller informed him that two police PG NO 1026 personnel namely H.C. Ram Ratan
and Constable Hawa Singh who were previously posted in P.S. Kotwali along with
a member of the public Prabhu Dayal who he knew has stopped his rickshaw near B
block, Industrial Area, G.T.K. Road.
Constable Ram Ratan caught him and started beating him and asked for a receipt
for the goods. Constable Hawa Singh and Prabhu Dayal removed the parts and
loaded in a TSR and went away." It was also stated that those T.V. parts
were recovered from the detenu and the case was registered under sec. 392/34 IPC
in which the investigation was progressing.
then, it was said:
the above criminal activity of Shri Ram Ratan it is clear that he, being a
Police Officer and bound to provide security and safety to the public, has
himself committed a heinous offence which has created a sense of insecurity in
the minds of public at large and is pre-judicial to the maintenance of public
in view the above criminal activity of the said Head Constable Ram Ratan, it
has been felt necessary to detain him u/s 3(2) of the National Security Act,
1981 so that his such activity which is prejudicial to the maintenance ot
public order could be stopped.
xxx Sd/- (Vijay Karan) COMMISSIONER OF POLICE: Delhi As is obvious from the
order, the Commissioner was satisfied with the need to detain the person,
firstly because, the person being a police officer was bound to provide
security and safety to the public and secondly, the offence committed was
"heinous" which has created a sense of insecurity in the minds of the
public at large.
same was highlighted before us by Shri Mahajan, learned counsel for the
respondents justifying the detention orders. The Counsel argued that though the
incident in question was a simple case of robbery, since it was PG NO 1027
committed by persons belonging to the disciplined police force, it would
certainly disturb the public safety in the life of the community with a sense
of Insecurity in their minds.
true that the detenu belonged to the police force in the national capital. Public
look for the police for safety. Society regards them as their guardian for its
protection. Society needs a properly trained and well disciplined police force whom
it can trust in all respects.
are the real frontline of our defence against violence.
have to maintain law and order. They have to safeguard our freedoms and
liberty. They have to prevent crime and when crime is committed, they have to
detect it and bring the accused to justice. They must be available at all hours.
are always expected to act and indeed must act properly. it is reprehensible if
they themselves indulge in criminal activities.
not, as we cannot, be unmindful of the danger to liberties of people when
guardians of law and order themselves indulge in undesirable acts. But the law
of preventive detention is not different to police personnel.
the same law that we apply to police as well as to public. We cannot,
therefore, apply a different standard in respect of acts individually committed
by any police officer. The subjective satisfaction of the detaining authority
with respect to the person sought to be detained should be based only on the
nature of the activities disclosed by the grounds of detention. The grounds of
detention must have nexus with the purpose for which the detention is made.
question in this case is whether the crime in question has any impact on
`public order as such. Courts have strived to give to this concept a narrower
construction than what the literal words Suggest. In the Superintendent,
Central Prison, Fatehgarh v. Ram Manohar Lohia  SCR 321 Subba Rao, J., as
he then was, observed (at 833):
in lndia under Art. 19(2) this wide concept of public order is split up under
different heads. It enables the imposition of reasonable restrictions on the
exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression in the interests of
the security of the State, friendly relations will foreign States, public
order, decency or morality. or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or
incitement to an offence. All the grounds mentioned therein can be PG NO 1028
brought under the general head public order" in its most comprehensive
sense. But the juxtaposition of the different grounds indicates that, though
sometimes they tend to overlap, they must be ordinarily intended to exclude
each other. "Public order is therefore something which is demarcated from
the others. In that limited sense, particularly in view of the history of the
amendment, it can be postulated that `public order is synonymous with public
peace, safety and tranquility." The impact on public order" and law
and order" depends upon the nature of the act, the place where it is
committed and motive force behind it. If the act is confined to an individual
without directly or indirectly affecting the tempo of the life of the
community, it may be a matter of law and order only. But where the gravity of
the act is otherwise and likely to endanger the public tranquility, it may fall
within the orbit of the public order. This is precisely the distinguishing
feature between the two concepts. Sometimes as observed by Venkatachaliah, J.
in Ayya Alias Ayub v. The State of U.P.
& Anr. Judgment today 1988 Vol. 4 p. 489 (at 496): `what might be an
otherwise simple law and order situation might assume the gravity and mischief
of a public-order problem by reason alone of the manner or circumstances in
which or the place at which it is carried-out. Necessarily, much depends upon
the nature of the act the place where it is committed and the sinister
significance attached to it.
example dare devil repeated criminal acts. open shoot out throwing bomb at
public places. committing serious offences in public transept, armed persons
going on plundering public properties of terrorising people may create a sense
of insecurity in the public mind and may have an impact on public order. Even
certain murder committed by persons in lonely places with the definite object
of promoting the cause of the party to which they belong may also affect the
maintenance of public order .
Abdul Aziz v. The Dist. Magistrate Burdwan & Ors.  2 SCR 646 this
Court has stated so. There two grounds were furnished to the detenu in
justification of the order of detention. It was stated:
that the petitioner and his associates were members of an extremist party
(CPI-ML), that on 16th August 1971, they armed themselves with lethal weapons
like PG NO 1029 firearms, choppers and daggers with a view to promoting the
cause of their party, that they raided the house of one Durgapada Rudra and
murdered him and that the aforesaid incidents created a general sense of
insecurity, as result of which the residents of the locality could not follow
their normal avocations for a considerable period. The second ground of
detention is that on 22nd
May, 1971 the
petitioner and his associates raided the house of Smt. Kshetromoni Choudhury
and murdered one Umapada Mallick who was staring in that house. This incident
is also stated to have created a general sense of insecurity amongst the
residents of the locality." Repelling the connection in that case that the
two incidents referred to above are but simple cases of murder germane to law
and order but could have no impact on public order Chandrachud, J. as he then
vas, said (at p. 648):
short answer to this contention is that the murders are stated to have been
committed by the petitioner and his associates with the definite object of
promoting the cause of the party to which they belonged. These, therefore, are
not stray or simple cases of murder as contended by the learned counsel. Such
incidents have serious repercussions not merely on law and order but On public
Dhana Ali khan v. State of West Bengal  Suppl SCR 124 this Court had an
occasion to consider the detention of a person under the maintenance of
Internal Security Act, 1971 regarding a single instance of theft in a running
train at night. The acts attributed to the detenu in that case were that on
3.8.1973. between 2110 and 2120 hrs., the detenu and his associate being armed
with daggers boarded a 3rd class compartment of SL 257 UP train of E. Railway Sealdah
Division at Gocharan Railway Station. They put the passengers of the
compartment to fear of death and snatched away a wrist watch and a gold
necklace from one Nirmal Chatterjee and his wife in between Gocharan and Surajpur
Railway Stations. The they decamped with booty from the running train at Suryapur
Railway Station. It was contended in that case that the said single incident
referred to have not even casual connection with the disturbance of public
order. Fazal Ali. while rejecting that contention said (at 126).
a perusal of this we are unable to accept the PG NO 1030 contention of the
petitioner that this ground has no nexus with the disturbance of public order.
It is true that the ground contains a single incident of theft of valuable
property from some passengers travelling in a running train and may amount to
robbery. But that does not by itself take the case out of the purview of the
provisions of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act. There are two pertinent
facts which emerge from the grounds which must be noted. In the first place the
allegation is that the petitioner had snatched away a wrist watch and a gold
necklace after putting the passengers of the compartment to fear of death.
Secondly, the theft had taken place at night in a running train in a third
class compartment and the effect of it would be to deter peaceful citizens from
travelling in trains at night and this would undoubtedly disturb the even tempo
of the life of the community." We have carefully examined the act
complained of in the present case in the light of the principles stated above.
It is an isolated criminal case with no sinister significance attached to it.
The offence was committed by two misguided police men under the cover of
darkness with the assistance of a member of the public. It was certainly
suicidal to those two police personnel. But it seems to have no connection whatsoever
to disturb the `public order having regard to the circumstances of the case.
last contention urged for the petitioners that the detention would be illegal
in view of dismissal of detenu from service is really without merit. The
subsequent order of dismissal is not germane to of examine the validity of the
result the rule is made absolute. The orders of detention impugned in these
cases are quashed. The detenu Ram Ratan and Hawa Singh be set at liberty