The Gujarat High Court quashed three detention orders filed under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA), 1985. “When two people quarrel and fight and assault each other inside a house or in a street, it may be said that there is a disorder but not public disorder,” the division bench of Justice S.H Vohra and Justice Sandeep Bhatt observed.
The Gujarat High Court slammed the state’s police for the pertinent misuse of this law in force for over three and a half decades. “Does the expression ‘public order’ take in every kind of infraction of order or only some categories thereof? It is manifest that every act of assault or injury to specific persons does not lead to public disorder. When two people quarrel and fight and assault each other inside a house or in a street, it may be said that there is a disorder but not a public disorder. Such cases are dealt with under the powers vested in the executive authorities under the provisions of ordinary criminal law but the culprits cannot be detained on the ground that they were disturbing public order”, the court reminded the state.
Even last week, the Gujarat High Court slammed the State Police for invoking the Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA) in a crime that already had relevant provisions in the Indian Penal Code and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. The accused was detained under PASA for selling expired drugs by changing their labels. The single bench of Justice Nirzar S Desai observed that the preventive “detention order in question was illegal” and quashed the order against the detenu.
This week the court was hearing three petitions challenging orders of detention under section 3(2) of the Gujarat Prevention of Anti Social Activities Act, 1985, by detaining the accused as a ‘dangerous person’ as defined under section 2(c) of the Act.
The AGP, Nidhi Vyas for the respondent-State defended the detention order passed by the authority in all of the four cases. She argued that sufficient material and evidence were found during the investigation indicating that the detenues in habit of indulging in the activity as defined under section 2(c) of the PASA.
The advocates ( Nipul H Gondalia, BJ Priyadarshini and Kishan H Daiya) for the detenues stated, “Illegal activity likely to be carried out or alleged to have been carried out, cannot have any nexus or bearing with the maintenance of public order and at the most, it can be said to be a breach of law and order”.
The bench relied on the Supreme Court in Pushker Mukherjee v/ s. State of West Bengal [AIR 1970 SC 852], where the distinction between ‘law and order’ and ‘public order’ has been clearly laid down. “A mere disturbance of law and order leading to disorder is thus not necessarily sufficient for action under the Preventive Detention Act but a disturbance which will affect public order comes within the scope of the Act”.