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Subrata challenges detention as ‘illegal’

New Delhi, March 12: Sahara group chief Subrata Roy today challenged his detention in custody as “illegal”, saying even the Supreme Court had no power to deprive a citizen of his fundamental right.

Adopting a confrontationist approach, he argued that the principles of natural justice had been violated by the apex court, which did not initiate contempt proceedings against him but directly sent him to jail.

Ironically, the business tycoon urged the apex court to issue a writ of habeas corpus for his production before the court. A habeas corpus is filed by an aggrieved person seeking production of another person who is under illegal custody.

Roy, in his fresh petition filed before the apex court, sought hearing by a larger bench, but the two judge-bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and J.S. Khehar, which had passed the detention order, said it would examine the plea at 2pm tomorrow.

On March 4, the apex court had sent Roy and two Sahara group directors to Tihar jail for wilfully defying its orders on refund of Rs 20,000 crore investors’ money.

The company came out with an offer on March 7 to refund the money in a staggered manner by July next year, but the apex court declined to accept it and said they would continue to be in jail.

The Sahara chief, in his petition, said the March 4 order was illegal as even the Supreme Court under Articles 129 and 142 of the Constitution had no power to send a person to jail for contempt.

The petition stated that the court should have initiated contempt proceedings under the Contempt of Court Proceedings Act and only if found guilty he could have been sent to jail.

While Article 129 deals with contempt of the apex court, Article 142 gives exhaustive powers to the Supreme Court to pass any order, decree or judgment in the interest of justice.

Senior counsel Ram Jethmalani today, appearing for Roy, said: “Every court is under an obligation to rectify its mistake.

“It is embarrassing to argue before a two-judge bench to say the order passed is illegal. I request your lordships to refer the matter to a larger bench.

“I am deeply embarrassed to argue. But if your lordships still want to hear it, I am willing to satisfy your Lordships on the issue.”

But the bench said it had to go through the petition and decide the issue.

“We will hear it tomorrow. We have not gone through it (petition). We will see if the pleadings are embarrassing or not. If the pleadings are really embarrassing, then we will consider it (reference to a larger bench).”