BHIM SINGH v. STATE OF J&K
DATE : 22 NOVEMBER 1985
BENCH : JUSTICE O CHINNAPPA REDDY, JUSTICE V KHALID
CITATION : AIR 1986 SC 494
COURT : SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
APPELLANT : BHIM SINGH
RESPONDENT : STATE OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR
Shri Bhim Singh was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. On August 17,1985, Mr. Singh was suspended from the assembly. When he questioned the suspension in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, the order of the suspension was stayed by the court. When he was proceeding from Jammu and Kashmir enroute, on the night of 9-10th September, 1985, he was arrested from Shrinagar on the allegation that a case under Section 152A of Ranbir Penal Code was registered against him fro delivering an inflammatory speech at the public meeting held on September 8, 1985. Mr. Singh was not produced before any magistrate until September 13, 1985. There was also a voting session at the assembly which he apparently missed, where his vote was important but the person to whom he wanted to cast the vote won. Although, there was no actual loss to the plaintiff but his legal right i.e., his right to vote was infringed. Along with that, he was not produced before the magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. Hence, his fundamental right under Article 21 (Right to Life and Liberty) and Article 22(2) (detained person to be presented before the magistrate within 24 hours ) was also deprived. Since the police is is under the ambit of state, the question of liability was state of Jammu and Kashmir. When the wife of Mr. Singh file the writ of Habeas Corpus before the Supreme Court, Mr. Singh was released on bail on September 16, 1985.
There are interesting questions which raised before the court. First, Is there hierarchical relationship between the state and citizen or does the real responsibility fall on the executive machinery, or on the superiors that are in power? In simple words, Can the state be held liable for the tortious acts of its servants? Second, Whether monetary compensation is suitable remedy for a victim of the state oppression? Third, What is the legality of detention and whether it is qualified as false imprisonment?
After hearing the arguments from both the parties and considering the facts of the case, the honorable supreme court observed that the law enforcement officials acted in a very arbitrary way and stated ” if the non-public liberty of a member of the legislature is to be played within this fashion, one can only wonder what may happen to lesser mortals. The court also reminded police officials, who are custodians of law and order within the state, should have best interests for the private liberty of citizens and should not float laws by stopping to such weird acts of lawfulness.
This case dealt with the liability of the state and focused on ‘Sovereign Immunity’ an became a landmark case which evolved the tort law in India. The case revolves around wrongful confinement and injuria sine damnum. Undoubtedly, the court gave a very appreciable decision in this case. By directing the state to compensate the plaintiff, the Supreme Court established that states and citizens are at an equal position in the eyes of laws. The court also recognized the liability of state to pay compensation when Right to Life and Personal Liability, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution has been violated by the state.