New Delhi, Jul 2 - The Supreme Court today upheld the Constitutional validity of preventive detention provision under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, saying such a measure was essential for the safety and welfare of the country.
A bench of justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale said those indulging in smuggling activities frustrate the growth and development of the country as such the provision was essential though it may interfere with the rights of personal liberty provided under Article 21.
"There is no Constitutional mandate that preventive detention cannot exist for an act where such act is not a criminal offence and does not provide for punishment.
"An act may not be declared as an offence under law but still for such an act, which is an illegal activity, the law can provide for preventive detention if such act is prejudicial to the State security," Justice Lodha writing the judgement said.
The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal filed by Dropti Devi and her son Raj Kumar Aggarwal challenging the preventive detention of the latter by the Central government under the COFEPOSA.
The impugned detention order was passed on September 23, 2009.
The appellants whose plea before the Delhi High Court was rejected contended that the provisional was unconstitutional as it violated a person's personal liberty and, besides, after enactment of the FEMA (Foreign Exchange Maintenance Act), the COFEPOSA Act had become irrelevant.
"The whole intent and idea behind COFEPOSA is to prevent violation of foreign exchange regulations of smuggling activities which have serious and deleterious effect on the national economy. In today's world the physical and geographical invasion may be difficult but it is easy to imperil the security of a state by disturbing its economy.
"The smugglers and foreign exchange manipulators by flouting the regulations and restrictions imposed by FEMA by their misdeeds and misdemeanours-directly affect the national economy and thereby endanger the security of the country.
"In this situation the distinction between acts where punishments are provided and the acts where arrest and prosecution are not contemplated pales into insignificance," the bench said.
According to the court, a person who violates foreign exchange regulations or indulges in smuggling activities succeeds in frustrating the development and growth of the country.
"The menace of smuggling and foreign exchange violations has to be curbed. Notwithstanding the many disadvantages of preventive detention, particularly in a country like ours where right to personal liberty has been placed on a very high pedestal, the Constitution has adopted preventive detention to prevent the greater evil of elements imperilling the security, the safety and welfare of the nation.
"It is too naive to suggest that in today's economic scenario of abundant foreign exchange and booming foreign trade, contravention of foreign exchange laws does not pose any threat to the national interest for which a person has to be detained," the bench added dismissing the appeal. PTI