‘Centre failed to justify execution’: HC quashes 1993 detention order executed in 2023

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The Bombay High Court has invalidated a 1993 detention order and a subsequent 2023 order affirming it, both issued by the Centre against a 62-year-old man suspected of involvement in unauthorized foreign exchange acquisition and transfer. The High Court, in its ruling on Wednesday, noted that the authorities failed to justify the execution of the order after three decades. The detained individual, Abdul Rasheed, was apprehended on February 28, 2023, under the provisions of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act (COFEPOSA). He contested both the 1993 and 2023 orders in court.
A division bench, consisting of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Gauri Godse, nullified both orders, asserting that the detaining authority couldn’t substantiate the execution of the detention order issued in 1993. The bench ordered Rasheed’s immediate release. However, the High Court granted a two-week stay on its order following a request by the Union government to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.
The High Court, in its judgment, highlighted that no efforts were made in the past 30 years to locate the petitioner, except for visiting his known address in Mumbai. It stated that the unexplained three-decade delay didn’t justify Rasheed’s preventive detention. Furthermore, there was no evidence to suggest that during this period, Rasheed engaged in any prejudicial or objectionable activities.
The bench emphasized that the COFEPOSA detention is meant to prevent individuals from engaging in activities detrimental to foreign exchange conservation, smuggling of goods, or harboring individuals involved in such actions. Thus, there should be conduct relevant to forming reasonable suspicions about the petitioner’s activities, which are prejudicial to warrant detention.
Rasheed’s plea challenged the May 17, 1993, detention order issued by the Union Ministry of Finance under COFEPOSA provisions. He also contested the May 24, 2023, order by the ministry confirming the 1993 order and directing his one-year detention. The 1993 detention order was linked to the apprehension of one Umar Ibrahim Mohamad at Mumbai airport in November 1992, who was attempting to depart for Dubai with a substantial amount of foreign currencies allegedly concealed. The detaining authority believed that Rasheed was involved in unauthorized foreign exchange acquisition and surreptitious transfer out of India, adversely affecting the country’s foreign exchange reserves.