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Indian Case Summary

N. Meera Rani vs Government Of Tamil Nadu & Anr on 22 August, 1989 – Case Summary

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In the case of N. Meera Rani vs Government of Tamil Nadu & Anr on 22 August, 1989, the Supreme Court of India delivered a significant judgment concerning the National Security Act, 1980. The case was presided over by Justice Jagdish Saran Verma, and the petitioner was N. Meera Rani, the wife of the detenue, Nallathambi.

Facts of the Case

The case revolves around an order dated 7th September 1988, made by the Collector & District Magistrate, Madurai, under Section 3(2) of the National Security Act, 1980. The order directed the detention of Nallathambi, the husband of the appellant. The State Government confirmed this order on 25th October 1988, under Section 12(1) of the Act, agreeing with the Advisory Board’s opinion and ordering Nallathambi’s detention for 12 months from the date of his detention.

Nallathambi was accused of being involved in a criminal conspiracy to commit dacoity at a branch of the Bank of Madura, with the loot intended to fund a militant organization known as Tamil Nadu Makkal Viduthalai Eyakkam. The detenue was arrested on 21st August 1988, and his confession led to the recovery of the stolen gold ornaments and weapons.

Issues Raised

N. Meera Rani challenged this preventive detention by filing a writ of Habeas Corpus in the High Court of Madras. The High Court dismissed the writ petition, leading to the appellant challenging the dismissal in the Supreme Court. The appellant also filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.

The appellant raised several issues, including the non-supply of certain documents referred to in the grounds of detention, which she claimed deprived the detenue of a proper and reasonable opportunity to make an effective representation. She also argued that the detaining authority did not take into account the detenue’s arrest and remand to custody by the Magistrate before passing the order of detention.

Court’s Observations

The Supreme Court held that the subsisting custody of the detenue by itself does not invalidate an order of his preventive detention. The decision must depend on the facts of the particular case. The detaining authority must show its awareness of the fact of subsisting custody of the detenue and take that factor into account while making the order.

However, if the detaining authority is reasonably satisfied on cogent material that there is a likelihood of his release and in view of his antecedent activities which are proximate in point of time, the detention order can be validly made even in anticipation to operate on his release.

In this case, the detention order read with its annexure indicates the detaining authority’s awareness of the fact of detenue’s jail custody at the time of the making of the detention order. However, there is no indication therein that the detenue could be released on bail. On the contrary, the detention order shows satisfaction of the detaining authority that there was ample material to support the criminal charge against the detenue. The order of detention passed on 7th September 1988 and its confirmation by the State Government on 25th October 1988 is therefore clearly invalid since the same was made when the detenue was already in jail custody for the offence of bank dacoity with no prospect of his release.