Habeas Corpus petition not maintainable in respect of person in police custody under lawful Magisterial order: SC

Supreme Court: The Bench of CJ Dipak Misra and A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the decision of Bombay High Court whereby it had allowed a writ of habeas corpus directing the appellants to produce detenu under lawful custody.

One Mukesh Pandian, a private detective, was arrested by the police on information that he was obtaining and selling call record details of different people. In the course of investigation, Rizwan Alam Siddique (detenu) was also arrested on suspicion of obtaining call records of the wife of bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddique. The said Rizwan was not cooperating in the investigation and in fact was found destroying evidence, pursuant to which he was arrested and produced before jurisdictional Magistrate who sent him to police custody. The respondent, wife of the detenu, rushed to the High Court and filed a habeas corpus writ  petition for production of her husband before the Court and setting him at liberty. The High Court, vide the order impugned, allowed the petition and set the detenu at liberty. The High Court also made scathing observations against the police officials concerned. Against the said order, the appellants filed the instant appeal.

The Supreme Court perused the record and considered submissions made by the parties. The Court relied on its earlier decisions in Saurabh Kumar v. Jailor, (2014) 13 SCC 436 and Manubhai Ratilal Patel v. State of Gujarat, (2013) 1 SCC 314 and observed that the question — ‘whether a writ of habeas corpus can be maintained in respect of a person who is in police custody pursuant to a remand order passed by the jurisdictional Magistrate in connection with the offence under investigation?’ — was no more res integra. In Court’s opinion, no writ of habeas corpus could have been issued in such circumstances. When the writ was allowed, the detenu was under lawful custody pursuant to the orders of the Magistrate. The petition was filed without challenging the order of the Magistrate. It was not a case of continued illegal detention. Furthermore, since the petition was not maintainable in the first place, the High Court should have been loath in entering into the merits of arrest and recording scathing observations against the police officials. Therefore, the order impugned was set aside. The detenu had already been released after the order, so the Investigating Officer was directed to proceed strictly in accordance with law. The appeal was disposed of in the terms above. [State of Maharashtra v. Tasneem Rizwan Siddique,2018 SCC OnLine SC 1348, dated 05-09-2018]

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