The Madras High Court on Tuesday quashed an order detaining six members of the left-leaning Makkal Adhikaram under the National Security Act (NSA) for their alleged involvement in arson and violence during the May 22 protests in Thoothukudi district. The Madurai bench set aside the detention order after stating that the crimes allegedly committed by them fell under the Goondas Act, therefore negating the possibility of booking them under NSA.
The six men - Kaliyalur Rahman (47), Mohd Anath (21), Mohd Ishad (20) , Kottaiyan (48), Saravanan (35) and Velumurugan(42) were booked under NSA in June based on orders from the district collector Sandeep Nanduri who was acting under directions from the State Home Secretary, Niranjan Mardi.
They were initially booked under sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 147 (Rioting), 148 (Rioting armed with deadly weapon), 353 (Assault against public servant), 341 (Wrongful restraint), 436 (Mischief by fire or explosive substance), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt through dangerous weapons or means), 188 (disobedience to order by public servant), 448 (Trespassing), 307 (attempt to murder), 506 (ii) (Criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal code.
The division bench of Justices CT Selvam and Basheer Ahmed read out definition of the Goondas Act and pointed out that, "It readily can be seen that in all the adverse cases as also the ground case the detenues answer to the description of GOONDA."
The Court further stated that the detention orders against any goonda will be under the Goondas Act and not under National Security Act. As per law, on and after the commencement of this Act, no order of detention under the National Security Act can be given.
The division bench of Justices CT Selvam and Basheer Ahmed further added that, "The order of detention has to be based either on the detaining authority being satisfied that the person against whom the order is being made is acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State OR on satisfaction that such person is acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order. Satisfaction of detaining authority cannot be on both counts at one and the same time. Hence, the detention order is liable to be set aside."
The judges quoted two cases - Bhupal Chandra Ghosh v. Arif Ali  and Satya Brata Ghose v. Arif Ali  to explain the judgement.
According to the orders in these cases, when detention is justified by placing reliance on both bases -security of the state and maintenace of public order, then it has to be held illegal.
"One has to imagine three concentric circles, in order to understand the meaning and import of the above expressions," explained the bench. " 'Law and order' represents the largest circle within which is the next circle representing â€˜public orderâ€™ and the smallest circle represents â€˜security of Stateâ€™. It is then easy to see that an act may affect law and order but not public order just as an act may affect public order but not security of State. It is in view of the above distinction, the Act defines the expressions "acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State" and "acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order" separately," it added.
The Makkal Adhikaram tells TNM that the outfit sees this judgement as a victory.
"Our members have been wrongly accused of endangering national security when all they did was protest," says Marudhu, spokesperson for Makkal Adhigaram. "This was a planned effort by the government to frame us and hide the mistakes of the police. And now this has been proven," he adds.
The Makkal Adhikaram's team of lawyers is, however, still working towards ensuring the release of its members.
"Four of them are in Palayamkottai prison while two are in Pudhukottai prison," says the spokesperson. "They did not incite any violence. We hope they will be released soon."