The Allahabad High Court has quashed an externment order passed against a man while observing that the authorities did not consider tangible and relevant material before deeming him a “goonda” under the Uttar Pradesh Control of Goondas Act. The bench of Justice JJ Munir quashed the order which had already expired, but yet found it necessary to quash it, as the reputation of the petitioner was at stake. The court held that the externment order adversely impacted his reputation in the society and even if the order has expired, he is entitled to question its validity and ask the court to quash it.
An order of externment was passed against the petitioner, Pavan Singhal by District Magistrate, under section 3 (3) of the Uttar Pradesh Control of Goondas Act. The same was affirmed by Commissioner, Agra Division in May 2019.
The Additional Government Advocate (AGA) submitted that the externment order issued in March 2019 was valid for a period of 6 months and the same has not expired hence the petition has become infructuous. The petitioner however, argued that the externment order adversely impacted his reputation in the society and even if the order has expired, he is entitled to question its validity and ask the court to quash it.
The court compared the externment to the preventive detention order under the National Security Act (NSA) which may not cast any stigma but once a person is externed and classified as a goonda, the order is stigmatic. “An order of externment is a serious inroad on a citizen's liberty,” the court said. The court opined that the petitioner is entitled to question the externment order, notwithstanding that order outrunning its life, as it would not be a sound legal proposition to say that a man may have to suffer the slur of Goonda because he was unable to get the order quashed while it was still valid.
The court observed that right to reputation is unquestionably a facet of right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution as affirmed by the apex court in many precedents. The court opined, “In the context of how the Right to Reputation is viewed by the law, it would be almost preposterous to suggest that the physical consequences of an externment order having come to an end, no cause of action survives to the petitioner to assail it”. The court examined externment under the Goondas Act and observed that the consequence of such an order is that it curtails the liberty of a person, but the same is of trivial consequence if weighed against the harm it brings to the reputation of the person. The externment order proceeds on an innate declaration that the person is a goonda and a goonda is the antithesis of what a respectable or honourable man is, the court said.
The counsel for the petitioner pointed out that apart from the fact that he is not a goonda, the order passed was flawed because it did not conform to the requirements of the Act as it does not carry the “general nature of material allegations” against him. Thus, the notice is bad in law, he contended.
After going through the cases registered against the petitioner, the court concluded that there is no tangible material referred to in the impugned orders on the basis of which, an inference may be drawn that the petitioner is a person who is desperate and dangerous to the community. The court stated that to conclude that the petitioner is a goonda on mere registration of crime, without any tangible material, such an order would be vitiated for lack of consideration of relevant material.
After perusal of the externment order passed by the DM and the confirmation of the same by the Commissioner, the court held that both orders “betray a very casual approach and an utter lack of application of mind to the relevant material on record”. The court stated that both “Authorities have shown scant regard to their duty to find out whether the petitioner's act can, indeed, qualify him as a goonda”.
The court further said that a notice under section 3(1) of the Act “must say something about the act, which the person put under notice has done, rather than listing the cases registered against him.”
The court deemed both orders to be vitiated by defects and quashed them.
Courtesy: Sabrang India
The complete order may be read here: