A prisoner on transit warrant (PT warrant) cannot be used for the purpose of keeping a person in detention without producing him/ her before the concerned court and such non-production will certainly curtail the liberty of a person, the Madras High Court recently ruled.
The High Court held that the purpose of a PT warrant is only to direct the production of a person confined or detained in a prison through a lawful order.
“Such a warrant cannot be interpreted to mean that the same will authorize the Police to curtail the liberty of a person by keeping the accused person in custody till he is produced before the concerned court,” the Court said.
Thus, prisoners formally arrested on the strength of a PT warrant while in custody for other cases must be produced before the jurisdictional court at the earliest, lest their rights under Article 21 are violated, the Court made it clear.
In other words, a person cannot be kept under remand on the strength of a PT warrant and he must be necessarily produced before the concerned court at the earliest point of time, the Court added.
The observations were made by Justice N Anand Venkatesh while dealing with petitions moved by two persons who were arrested invoking PT warrants when they were still in custody in relation to other cases.
Both persons were produced before the magistrate for remand, months after their “formal arrest” and only upon them being released on bail in other cases.
Challenging this inordinate delay in producing the two petitioners for remand, the Madras High Court was moved for relief. The Court, in turn, framed the question for consideration as follows:
Will the delay caused by the Police in producing the petitioner before the Court below after formally arresting him through a PT warrant vitiate the remand order passed by the Court below?
Citing various judgments on the issue, the Court observed that if persons arrested on PT warrants were not produced for remand at the earliest, it would violate their right to personal liberty.
Notably, the Court noted that this could also affect the computation of days spent in detention for the purpose of default bail under Section 167 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). This provision entitles an arrested person to be released on bail if the police fails to file chargesheet/ final report within the prescribed period of 60 days or, in some cases, 90 days.
As noted in the judgment, this period would only be calculated “from the date of detention as per the orders of the Magistrate and not from the date of formal arrest by the Police.”
As such, a delay in producing a man formally arrested on a PT warrant before a magistrate could mean that a part of his detention following formal arrest is not accounted for.
“If an accused person is produced before the Court with an inordinate delay and thereafter if he is remanded to judicial custody, the custody of the accused person in the concerned case will be calculated only from the date of his remand and the period prior to it where he was kept under detention on the strength of the PT warrant, will not be taken into consideration. Such a practice has been deprecated by this Court and such delay in producing the accused person before the Court after a formal arrest through a P.T. warrant, will certainly violate the liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of Constitution of India,” the Court explained.
Such a violation of personal liberty was noticed in the instant case, where the police had not produced the petitioners before the magistrate until they were enlarged on bail in all other cases. The Court found that the police had acted to indirectly achieve on the strength of the PT warrant, that which they could not have achieved under the CrPC.
“Such questionable practices by taking advantage of a PT warrant, continue to be adopted by the police … The respondent Police by adopting a skewed practice have defeated the right of the petitioner and thereby the liberty of the petitioner was directly violated. This practice must be immediately stopped by the Police and even in case where a person is involved in serious offences, the correct procedure has to be adopted scrupulously,” the Court said.
Justice Venkatesh, therefore, set aside the remand order against both petitioners and directed their release on bail.