The Bench grilled the Maharashtra counsel, asking on what authority did he detain the 66-year-old man for 91 days.
April,19,2015: The arrest of a 66-year-old man and his incarceration for 91 days without bail for “raising his voice” at a court bailiff who came to deliver possession of a disputed property left the Supreme Court shocked at the manner in which a citizen can lose his freedom in the blink of an eye.
Little did Bhanudas of Shevgaon district in Maharashtra know that he would not see the light of the day and spend over three months in prison for “shouting” at the court bailiff in exasperation. Bhanudas said he had fighting in the court for the property since 1991.
His petition for bail in the Supreme Court records his exact words to the bailiff: “You cannot remove the wall as this place belongs to me”.
He was arrested the same day, January 13, 2015 and charged with Section 353 (criminal force to deter public servant from discharging his duty) of the Indian Penal Code, which carries a maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment or fine.
His bail application the next day was rejected by the Magistrate, who said the senior citizen “created a hurdle” in the cause of justice.
A second application for bail before the Sessions Judge also failed. This time, the judge said his behaviour amounted to contempt of court.
Much to his alarm, the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court also rejected his bail plea, leaving him no choice but move the apex court.
Taken aback by the treatment meted to an elderly person, a Bench of Justices Anil R. Dave and Kurian Joseph on Friday (April 17) grilled the Maharashtra counsel, asking on “what authority are you detaining a 66-year-old man for 91 days for raising his voice?”
“Every day we are faced by this soul-searching question about the State detaining persons… Tell us, how could you leave this man behind bars for 91 days?” Justice Joseph asked.
“Don't take things beyond a certain level," Justice Dave warned the State from being overzealous.
Justice Joseph pointed out that Section 353 IPC, under which Bhanudas was charged, also gave an option of fine as punishment.
“Don't you know when there is an option of fine as punishment, the first choice should be to order payment of fine and not imprisonment… What have you done here?” Justice Joseph asked.
The Bench then immediately ordered Bhanudas to be released on bail.