NEW DELHI: "Loss of liberty of humble person like a driver and of an affluent person is on the same pedestal," the Supreme Court said on Friday, dismissing an appeal of Bihar government against a Patna High Court order directing it to pay compensation of Rs 5 lakh to a driver who was detained for 35 days by police without any FIR.
The top court also took note of the fact that the driver of a milk van was detained last year during the nationwide lockdown without any "rhyme and reasons" and said it appears "Police Raj is going on in State of Bihar."
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah at the outset said that Bihar government should not have filed the appeal against the Patna High Court order of December 22 last year.
Advocate Devashish Bharuka, appearing for Bihar, said the state has taken action against the Station House Officer and disciplinary proceedings are going on.
He said that his only limited point is that he was a driver and Rs 5 lakh compensation may not be payable to him.
The bench then observed, "Loss of liberty of a humble person like a driver and of an affluent person is on the same pedestal."
It said that the driver was detained without any "rhyme and reasons" and without even registering any FIR, which is evident from the report filed by the DIG in the case before the High Court.
"What is this going on? Absolutely Police Raj is going on in state of Bihar," the bench said.
"The person was detained for days without any FIR being registered. How can you justify this," the bench said, after Bharuka submitted that the driver was there of his volition.
It said that Rs 5 lakh compensation is good enough and dismissed the appeal filed by the state government.
The high court order had directed Bihar government to pay compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the detenue driver Jitendra Kumar for violation of his fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution and said the amount shall positively be paid within a period of six weeks.
It directed appropriate disciplinary action/ disciplinary proceedings be initiated against the erring police officers and positively concluded within a period of three months.
The high court said, "Torture, either mental or physical, represents the worst violations of individual human personality, an outright and premeditated attack on human dignity. It has no place in the governance of the State and its legitimate use of force."
It had directed the DGP to ensure that appropriate action for sensitizing the entire police force, especially, the constabulary in Bihar, with special focus on safeguarding the fundamental rights of citizens is taken.
The high court had said that truck drivers are faced with a great deal of high stress and pressure as part of their job and additional hassle and trauma, perpetuated by the authorities, through the use of hostility and torture is akin to grave human injustice.
"Such practices are a clear violation of the human rights guaranteed to every citizen of the world. With the failure of the State to protect its citizens, it becomes the responsibility and duty of the Judiciary to intervene in aid of these most downtrodden and helpless individuals," it had said.
The high court had noted that on April 29 last year, a milk tanker was seized in the jurisdiction of Parsa Police Station of Saran district.
It said that according to the petitioner, the tanker was taken to a nearby dairy for milk to be extracted and thereinafter detained at the police station where the detenue was detained in extra-judicial custody.
It said that the facts of the case indicate a grim state of affairs where the police officials have acted in contravention and violation of the procedure established by law and the vehicle and detenue were detained and kept in police custody for more than 35 days without either filing of FIR or following any other procedure of arrest prescribed in law, ensuring constitutional protections to all persons.