Interrogation till late night amounts to torture & violation of human rights
The assessees premises were searched u/s 132 and alleged undisclosed income of Rs. 4.18 crores was detected. The assessee filed a complaint before the the Bihar Human Rights Commission stating that interrogation & recording of statement was conducted for more than 30 hours and till the odd hours of the night without any break or interval and this violated his human rights. The Commission upheld the plea and directed the concerned officials to show-cause why the assessee should not be compensated from their salary. The Department filed a Writ Petition to challenge the order. HELD by the Court:
(i) The interrogation continued till 3.30 a.m. on the second night of search and seizure as per the departments record. The search and seizure manual does not prescribe any time limit for search and survey operation and the same may continue for days if required, but it has to be in keeping with the basic human rights and dignity of an individual. The purpose of the Act is to give effect to the process of execution of actions of executive and bureaucratic machinery in line of accepted standard of basic human rights which are internationally recognized. The laws, and approach to law for its execution must confirm to the charter of human values and dignity. Even a person accused of a serious offence has to be produced before the nearest Magistrate within 24 hours minus the time taken in reaching the Court. There is no possible justification to continue interrogation and keep the assessee awake till 3 a.m. on the second night of search and interrogations. No reason has been assigned as to why the interrogations could not have been deferred till the morning of the next day. The officials could have continued with the interrogation on the next day in the morning after allowing the assessee to retire at an appropriate time in the night. Sleep deprivation method of interrogation amounts to inhuman treatment and violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Convention prohibits in absolute terms torture or Inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No exception to Article 3 can be made even in the event of Public Emergency threatening the life of the Nation. Accordingly, the department is guilty of violating human rights even though the operations were conducted in best interest of revenue and good faith (Ireland vs. UK (1978) ECHR 1, Kalashnikov vs. Russia (2002) ECHR 596 & Salmouni vs. France (2000) 29 EHRR 403 followed; Rajendran Chingaravelu 2010(1) SCC 45 distinguished)
(ii) However, as the Commission, without issuing any notice to the officials engaged in the search (as to the violation of Human Rights), issued notice on why monetary compensation be not awarded and be recoverable from their salary, it had pre-judged the officials as being guilty of violation of human rights, without affording them an opportunity of hearing. This was contrary to s. 16 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and had to be reversed.