A preventive detention order would be invalid if there is an unreasonable delay between proposal for the punishment and its execution, the Supreme Court said on Friday, according to The Times of India.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India UU Lalit made the observation while hearing an appeal filed by a man facing multiple cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.

The Home Department of the Tripura government had passed an order on November 12, 2021, to put the accused person, Sushanta Kumar Banik, under preventive detention. Banik challenged the order before the Tripura High Court, which dismissed his petition in June. He then moved the Supreme Court.

On Friday, the Supreme Court noted that the police had proposed Banik’s detention on June 28, 2021, and the proposal was forwarded to the Home Department on July 14 last year. However, the order for detention was passed only in November.

The judges questioned the Home Department on why there was a delay of nearly five months in passing the order.

An unreasonable delay between the proposal for preventive detention and the actual order snaps the link between between the grounds of detention and the purpose it serves, the judges said, according to The Indian Express.

“...Preventive detention is a serious invasion of personal liberty and the normal methods open to a person charged with commission of any offence to disprove the charge or to prove his innocence at the trial are not available to the person preventively,” the court said.

The bench took note of a Supreme Court verdict passed in 1982 which held that the objective of detention was not to punish a person, but to prevent the person from committing a crime.

The court said that authorities must adhere to safeguards laid down in the Constitution and in laws authorising detention. The Supreme Court quashed the detention order passed by the Tripura government, and ordered Banik’s release.