Case Analysis: Govind v. State of M.P.

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Writ Petition No. 72 of 1970

Govind………………………………………………………………………………………Petitioners

 vs.

 State of Madhya Pradesh and Others……………………………………… Respondents

Citation……. AIR 1975 SC 1378,

1975(1) ALR 252,

1975CriLJ1111,

(1975)2SCC148,

[1975]3SCR946

Date of Judgement: 18th March 1975[1]

Parties Involved

Appellant- Govind

Respondent- State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors.

Bench  K.K. Mathew, P.K. Goswami and V.R. Krishna Iyer, JJ.

Introduction

The following write up is a case study on a Supreme court case (Writ Petition No. 72 of 1970) which was decided on 18th March 1975. Appellant in the case was Govind, responded by the State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors. The case was Judged by three bench Judges K.K. Mathew, P.K. Goswami and V.R. Krishna Iyer Counsels for Appellant A.K. Gupta and R.A. Gupta, Adv. Counsel for the respondent was Ram Panjwani, H.S. Parihar and I.N. Shroff, Advs. The main concern of this case is Right to Privacy and validation of Regulations under Police Act, 1961. The original case is of 9 pages where the judgement is given in a point to point form which makes it easy to interpret the points, while going through the original judgement you find that the petitioner’s appeal, respondent’s appeal, their opinions, cases cited, courts citation and courts order are all given in a stream which is helpful when we study the case. 

Background

Petitioner is a citizen of India. Petitioner Challenged the validity of the Madhya Pradesh Police Regulations related to surveillance, including domiciliary visits. Petitioner alleged false accusations were put against him on the basis of which he was put under surveillance by the Police. The petitioner is recognized as a criminal by the Madhya Pradesh police based on his activities from 1960 to 1969. The police started surveillance under article 855 and 856 of section 46(2) (c) of the Police Act, 1961. The petitioner was the one in the list of the police because of his past behaviour and history. On the basis of this judgement many cases in future were brought to a conclusion.

Facts

  1. Govind is a recognized criminal by the Madhya Pradesh Police.
  2. Petitioner has been convicted under section 452 IPC fined Rs. 100/- in default rigorous imprisonment of two months, under section 456 with fine of Rs.50/- and in default rigorous imprisonment of one month, under section 55/109 Cr.P.C. etc.
  3. Government of Madhya Pradesh inaugurated Regulations 855 and 856 of Madhya Pradesh Police Regulations conferring on the names of persons who are suspected of being indulged in criminal activities under constant surveillance which include visits at irregular intervals to those people’s houses to ensure no such activity is carried out by them.
  4. Govind is one included in the list of Madhya Pradesh Police subjected to surveillance under aforesaid regulation. He claimed he was visited by the Police, beaten and assaulted several times.

Issues

  1. Whether the Regulation 855 and 856 is valid and has legal backing?
  2. Whether domiciliary visits can be declared unconstitutional?
  3. Whether Right to Privacy is absolute or subjective with restrictions and in this sense the regulation is justifiable and rational?
  4. Whether Right to Privacy, rights of citizens under article 19(1)(d) and article 21 of the petitioner (Govind) are hindered by the following order under regulation 855 and 856 by the Madhya Pradesh Police?

Related provisions (Explanation)

1.    Regulation 855:

Provides for surveillance programs against persons whose conduct shows a determination of leading a life of crime and if the Police thinks the person is indulged in some criminal activities irrespective of whether he is convicted before or not. If there is some history report of the person, it will be opened and for those not already in existence will be opened by the circle inspector.

2.    Regulation 856:

Acts as a support to regulation 855 and provides following measures

  1. Episodic examination related to the persons routine, behaviour, expenses, salary and livelihood by the station house officer.
  2. Irregular Domiciliary visits.
  3. Secret barrier to the house when a person is not at home.
  4. Reporting absences of people and tracking their movement.
  5. Approval of activities by bad character rolls.
  6. Compilation of information in a history sheet.

3.    Section 46(2)(c) 1961:

This section states that the government may from time to time make rules consistent with the Act for giving effect to the provision to this act.

4.    Article 19(1)(d) of Constitution of India:

Freedom of movement throughout the territory of India. Any person is free to move out of the state of India whenever he wishes to do so generally under the ambit of law.

5.    Article 21 of Constitution of India:

Right to life and personal liberty according to procedure established by law. It is given in the article that an individual right towards having life is secured under the constitution with a cost of public security and procedure followed by law.

Related cases

Kharak Singh vs. The State of U.P. and Ors. (1962)[2]:

The Regulations which were not created under law were declared unconstitutional. The court said that Article 21 of the constitution is self-comprehending which include personal liberty and Right to Privacy.

Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965)[3]:

In this case the Supreme court Declared the statute unconstitutional which had the provision of contraceptives as a criminal offence, it claimed that if such a statute is in power it will be a harm to Right to Privacy of the married people and will indirectly hinder their personal liberty and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political institutions and that Privacy is a considered concept in totality of the constitutional scheme under which we live.

Jane Roe vs. Henry Wade (1973)[4]:

Here the Texas criminal abortion statute was declared unconstitutional because it came in way of Right to Privacy of women. The Supreme Court said that although the Constitution of USA does not explicitly mention any Right to Privacy the court recognizes that Right of personal Privacy has its root in amendments, yet Right to Privacy is not absolute.

Wolf vs. Colorado (1949)[5]:

The argument in this case was that the security of one’s privacy against arbitration intrusion by the Police is basic to a free society. The court ultimately declared a Regulation unconstitutional as it had no legal backup.

In all the above cases we see those sections which did not have reasoning and backup of law were the ones which were discarded and the other part of those sections which made sense were kept valid.

Judgement

The court dismissed the petition of Govind. The court concluded that Regulations 855 and 856 have necessary statutory backing as they have been created under Section 46(2)(c) of the Police Act, 1961. Court denied the unrestricted existence of Right to Privacy. It is implied through article 21 but not in entirety. Thus, reasonable restrictions can be imposed on a person’s Right to Privacy which can be determined by comprehensive analysis of the facts of the case and through convincing state interest trial.

Domiciliary visits stand reasonable in their nature and with an objective to secure the public interest which were done by the Policemen were not regarded to be violating the fundamental rights. People suspected of being indulging in crimes are subjected to domiciliary visits and surveillance hence they are considered reasonable and upheld valid.

The court gave directions to the Police officers to take steps under regulations with extreme caution. The people with clearest cases of criminal activities should be exposed to the surveillance so as to maintain its significance.

Critical analysis

Right to Privacy is vague in numerous judgements. The Constitution does not have any specific establishment explicitly stating Right to Privacy as a fundamental Right simply because Privacy as we say has its scope all over. The makers of the constitution have kept this arena in mind. I think Right to Privacy has its foundation in the Constitution as a whole. It’s just that it is not very clear or a bit ambiguous for which trials occur. The aforesaid case is an illustration of the same. [6]

The regulation which the court stated there as ‘under force of law’ needs much clarity about its function in my view, when it is said that there should be surveillance and a list has to be made, prioritising the people in the list is very important. The Police while working for the same should look into the severity of crimes conducted and his behaviour after completion of his punishment. It is vital for the Police staff to not raise issues towards people for their private use or as a defaming agent towards the person but for the actual reason of safety of the state.

When they are under surveillance there should be a time limit kept to the same, as after that the officer in charge should come to a conclusion based on his actions whether to keep his name in the register or not. Domiciliary visits should occur and that’s passable, but picketing is a bit problematic because by doing such act the human rights issue could be raised, if the person is not home there is no need to keep secret watch on the house and disturb the ambience with such act, this will be a problem for the society. Further, we never know if the person feels embarrassed for what’s done and if they want to get out of crimes and live an honest life this will be a severe harm to his reputation. Also while the process is occurring for the people who are just the suspect with no history of crime, this has to be a problem, you cannot just go to somebody’s house and say you are under surveillance because we have doubt on actions you are doing, that’s just baseless for Democratic country with human rights hence this must have a strong reasoning.

Justiciability of surveillance is also a question because it disturbs the social peace but however if that is done for the greater good that should be fine as good of the society is greater than individual however this should be with peace and least harm to the society while doing this assaulting the citizen and beating is a wrong. Employing all these points I think clarity is the key, there is a severe need for transparency in criminal laws creating ambiguity out of which the proceedings leads to time killing of the court. [7]

However, this landmark case helped shape many future judgements, after numerous citations and many arguments the case settled. The courts lining that Right to Privacy is not an absolute Right gained clarity in various cases thereafter, as a result of which this is one of the most significant cases trading with Right to Privacy and its landscape.


[1] MANU/SC/0119/1975

[2] 1963 AIR 1295, 1964 SCR (1) 332

[3] 381 U.S. 479

[4] 410 U.S. 113 (1973)

[5] 338 U.S. 25

[6] Noorani, A. (2005). Right to Privacy. Economic and Political Weekly, 40(9), 802-802. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/4416258

[7] Bhatia, G. (2014). STATE SURVEILLANCE AND THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY IN INDIA: A CONSTITUTIONAL BIOGRAPHY. National Law School of India Review, 26(2), 127-158. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/44283638

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