HC sets Norms for Arrests on Lookout Notice

Imposes `2 lakh damages on authorities for detention of Kerala woman on mistaken identity in 2014, says none should be sent to prison mechanically

Published: 23rd December 2015 04:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd December 2015 04:02 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has framed a set of guidelines to be followed before effecting arrest of a person under the Look Out Notice (LON) at airports.

A Division Bench of Justices S Tamilvanan and CT Selvam, which gave the direction on Tuesday, also imposed `2 lakh toward damages on the airport and other authorities concerned, for mistakenly identifying and arresting a woman belonging to Kerala on October 29, 2014.

The bench was disposing of a habeas corpus writ petition from the woman’s son Kevin John Sajith, on Tuesday.

The judges said that the airport authorities should carefully verify the genuineness of the passport and visa. The photo of the passenger available in the passport should be compared properly with the photo of the suspected person. There should be proper enquiry with regard to other details, such as age, address given by the passenger/person with the details of the suspect. Mechanically in an irresponsible manner, no person should be sent to prison, merely by registering a case, on the ground of suspicion.

When there is serious doubt about the identity of the passenger/person, the authority concerned should file a report on the identity, referring supporting materials available and the reason for the conclusion of such suspicion. The passenger/person, should not be sent to prison but only to a place with proper safety and security. If the person is a woman passenger, proper woman official should be posted for her safety. If any person is sent to prison unreasonably, the official concerned should be made responsible, by way of initiating appropriate proceedings, in order to safeguard the human rights and fundamental rights, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The damages of `2 lakh imposed on the authorities concerned shall be paid by the Union Ministry of External Affairs and the TN government to the credit of “The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s Flood Relief Fund”, as the petitioner declined to accept, the bench said and added that it is open to the authorities to take action against the officials, who are responsible for the illegal detention of the petitioner’s mother.

Earlier, the bench pointed out that the photo of Sarah Thomas, the mother of the petitioner, is different from that of the photo of Sarah Williams, an accused in a criminal case. The other details furnished in the passport also could not tally with the details of Sarah Williams. Petitioner’s mother had no bad antecedent nor had she any involvement in a criminal case. She had also denied that she was Sarah Williams. Despite all this, without verifying the identity of the petitioner’s mother, the Immigration Officials handed over her, after a case being registered under Section 41 (1) (g) of Cr.P.C, and she was also remanded to judicial custody by the Judicial Magistrate, Alandur and sent to Central Prison, Puzhal, Chennai. It is unfortunate that the mistaken identity infringed fundamental rights, personal liberty and also affected the reputation of a respectable person, with no criminal background. She was wrongly taken to Kerala by CBCID police from Puzhal Prison, without a judicial order. After making a detailed enquiry in Kerala, based on the statements from various persons, she was produced before the Judicial First Class Magistrate No.III, Punalur on November 2. The order passed by the Punalur Judicial Magistrate clearly showed that the petitioner’s mother, who had been arrested and remanded to judicial custody, then taken to Kerala in a vehicle from Central Prison, Puzhal, Chennai and was kept in their custody till November 2, is nothing to do with Sarah Williams and everything had happened only on a mistaken identity, the judges said.

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