The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Thane police to release from their custody advocate Rizwan Siddiqui, who was arrested last week for illegal possession of the call detail records (CDRs) of Bollywood actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui's wife.
A bench of Justices S C Dharamadhikari and P D Naik held that in arresting Rizwan Siddiqui, the Thane police had acted in a "high-handed" manner and failed to follow "due process of law". The bench also directed senior most officials of Thane police and the state Home department to enquire into the actions of the Thane police and if deemed fit, initiate appropriate punitive proceedings against the officials concerned.
The bench was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Rizwan Siddiqui's wife, Tasneem, challenging the manner of his arrest in the case. The advocate was arrested by the Thane police on the night of March 16 for allegedly having ordered the illegal procurement of the CDR of actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui's wife.
In the plea, Tasneem claimed that her husband Rizwan Siddiqui had received a witness summon from the Thane Crime Branch Unit one on February 14. However, around 10 pm on March 16, Thane Crime Branch officials came to his office and while recording the statement, arrested him without giving him any notice under section 41(A) of the CrPC to give him time to make an appearance before the police, the plea said. It further alleged that the Thane police has kept him in wrongful and illegal custody since then.
The state, that is the prosecution in the case, however, told the HC that the Thane Crime Branch had attempted to serve the 41(A) notice on Rizwan Siddiqui. But since he refused to accept the same, he was arrested, the prosecution said.
Section 41 (A) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) sets out guidelines for a prosecuting agency to arrest a person without warrant. It mandates that, if a complaint is received against someone, or if a cognisable offence is made out against that person and he must be arrested without a warrant, then the agency must serve such person with a notice under section 41(A), asking the person to appear before it at a given location and time.
On Wednesday, the prosecution submitted the details of such notice. However, the court realised that while the notice had been issued on March 15, asking Rizwan Siddiqui to be present before it on March 17 at 11 am, he was arrested before he could have visited the police.
When the bench observed that this was in clear contravention of the law, government lawyer Aruna Pai submitted that while the Thane police had no objection to Rizwan Siddiqui's release, as per the magistrate's court order, he had been remanded in police custody till March 23. The bench, however, dismissed the argument.
"The magistrate's order is not binding upon this court. This court had to intervene only because due process of law was not followed by officials concerned," the bench said. It said their arguments and the perusal of police records have failed to offer a justification for the high-handed manner in which the police acted and arrested the petitioner's husband (Rizwan Siddiqui).
"Therefore, we also suggest that senior most officials of the Thane police and the state Home department look into this and initiate appropriate action against the officials concerned," the high court said.
The bench also said the prosecution and the police failed to answer its questions on the process of law and therefore conceded to saying that they have no objection to releasing the petitioner's husband. "See to it that he is released forthwith," the bench said.
The court, however, clarified that its observations and order did not pass any judgement on Rizwan Siddiqui's role in the CDR case, and that the police was free to act against him as long as the same was done in accordance with the law.