“Will Be In Breach Of Special Powers If…”: Supreme Court On Personal Liberty

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Highlighting the importance of “personal liberty”, the Supreme Court today said it will be acting “in breach” of its special constitutional powers if it does not act in cases pertaining to the violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country.
“What for are we here if we do not listen to our conscience?” a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud asked while setting aside an Allahabad High Court order on a plea of a man who was to suffer a jail term of 18 years in nine matters under the Electricity Act.

“No case is small for the Supreme Court. If we do not act in matters of personal liberty and grant relief, then what are we doing here?” asked the bench, which also comprised Justice P S Narasimha.

“We will be acting in breach of Article 136 (special powers to grant relief under the Constitution) if we do not act in the matter of personal liberty,” the bench said.

The facts of the case provide another instance, a “glaring one”, indicating a justification for the top court to exercise its jurisdiction as a protector of the fundamental right to life and personal liberty inherent in every citizen, it added.

“If the court was not to do so, the liberty of a citizen would be abrogated. In seemingly small, routine matters involving grievances of citizens, the issues of moment in jurisprudential and constitutional matters emerge from the intervention of this court,” the bench said.

The observations of the CJI while hearing a case of a man convicted in nine criminal cases, mostly under the Electricity Act, assume significance as Law Minister Kiren Rijiju has said in Parliament recently that the Supreme Court should not be hearing bail pleas and frivolous PILs when the pendency of cases is so high.

The apex court granted relief to petitioner Iqram, who was convicted in nine criminal matters by a trial court in Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur and awarded two-year jail terms, besides a fine, in each case.

The convict has been in jail for almost three years now and it has been wrongly construed by the jail authorities that his sentences will run successively, instead of concurrently, and as a result, his jail term would become 18 years.

The top court set aside the high court order, refusing to grant relief to the convict, and made clear that the sentences would run concurrently.

It said the Allahabad High Court could have stepped in to set right the “miscarriage of justice”.

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