Invoke pre-trial detention only to maintain public order: Kerala HC

The court emphasised that if the cases highlighted a lack of connection to the ‘public order’ as envisioned by such detention orders, the detention itself would be unlawful. 
Representational image of Kerala High Court. (File Photo)
Representational image of Kerala High Court. (File Photo)

KOCHI:  The Kerala High Court has underscored that the power of preventive detention can only be invoked in cases where an individual’s activities pose a threat to public order or are detrimental to society.

Such measures cannot be utilised as a punitive action or as a substitute for a criminal trial. This ruling was issued in response to the annulment of a detention order under the Kerala Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 2007 (KAAPA) against an individual who was implicated in three NDPS cases and two Indian Penal Code cases.

The court’s pronouncement followed a petition by George Francis’ mother, contesting the detention order issued against him under the KAAPA, categorising him as a known goonda. The petitioner’s legal representative argued that he could not be classified as either a drug offender or a ‘goonda’ under the legal provisions.

The court emphasised that if the cases highlighted a lack of connection to the ‘public order’ as envisioned by such detention orders, the detention itself would be unlawful. 

The mere possession of a narcotic substance should not be assumed as part of a stockpile unless evidence establishes an intent to distribute. Such substances could be held for personal use. However, if any indication of a commercial motive surfaces, then these “stocks” may indeed be classified as actions influencing public order. Therefore, the authority issuing the detention order should scrutinise the nature of offences.  In line with its verdict, the court directed the immediate release of George Francis. 

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