Liberty most valuable right: Apex court


New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said individual liberty was one of the “most valuable” and “cherished” fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution.

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“In India, utmost importance is given to life and personal liberty of an individual, since we believe personal liberty is the paramount essential to human dignity and happiness,” an apex court bench of Justice D.K. Jain and Justice H.L. Dattu said in a judgment Monday.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Dattu said: “Here is an unfortunate case involving a person who ought not to have been detained under preventive detention and have his liberty curtailed by virtue of his incarceration under Section 3(2) of the National Security Act, 1980 (NSA).”

The court said this in support of its Sep 14 order releasing Ranjit Oinamcha alias Oinam Ranjit Singh who was under detention under NSA since Sep 24, 2009.

Ranjit Singh’s wife Pebam Ningol Mikoi Devi moved the Imphal bench of Gauhati High Court by way of habeas corpus petition seeking release of her husband which was dismissed.

She then moved the apex court challenging the dismissal of her appeal by the high court.

Ranjit Singh is the editor of a Manipuri Daily evening paper “Paojel” and was accused of being involved an extortion racket of insurgent group the United National Liberation Front (UNLF).

The UNLF aims to create an independent, sovereign state of Manipur by seceding from the Union of India.

Ranjit Singh was communicated the grounds for his detention Sep 28, 2009 – four days after his detention. He made a representation which was rejected by the Manipur government.

The advisory board constituted under the NSA too opined that there were sufficient grounds for detaining Ranjit Singh.

The same was approved by the governor of Manipur. The home ministry rejected his representation on the grounds of delay.

Setting aside the high court order, the judgment said that there “must be a reasonable basis for the detention order, and there must be material to support the same”.

The judgment said that the court was “entitled to scrutinize the material relied” upon by the detaining authority and determine if there was an “objective basis for subjective satisfaction” of the decision to book a person under the NSA.

The court noted that the subjective satisfaction must involve the question whether “the person to be detained is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state or maintenance of public order”.

The court said that the detaining authority must be further satisfied that it is necessary to detain the said person in order to prevent him from doing so.