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RUDAL SHAH VS STATE OF BIHAR 1983 AIR 1086: (1983) 4 SCC 141


The case is a Writ Petition (Criminal) 1387 of 1982. The case of Rudal Shah vs State of Bihar emphasised on the interpretation of Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. It focused on the concept whether compensation can be provided to the victim party during the violation of Fundamental Rights.


In this case Rudal Shah was arrested for murdering his wife. He was later acquitted by the Sessions Court, Muzaffarpur, Bihar on 3 June 1968 after he served his punishment. He got out of jail on 16 October 1982 after he was kept in jail for 14 years. Later the petitioner filed a writ petition of Habeas Corpus in Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution for compensation for his illegal detainment and ex-gratia payment for his rehabilitation. On 22 November the petition came up before the court, however, he was already released from the jail. But the court issued a show cause notice to the state in relation to ancillary relief. The prisoner filed an affidavit according to two points. Firstly, the additional sessions judge of Muzaffarpur passed an order stating that the petitioner should be detained until further orders from the IG (prisons) and the orders from the state government. Secondly, it was stated that during the passing of the order the jailer was of unsound mind. The jailer was later examined by a civil surgeon under which he was considered to be normal.


The issues that were brought up in this case was:

  • Is Supreme Court having the power to accept the prayer of compensation and to provide compensation according to Article 32 of the Indian Constitution?
  • Can right to compensation be covered under Article 21 if there is violation of fundamental rights?

The Bench consisted of CJ Y.V. Chandrachud, Amarendra Nath Sen and Ranganath Misra (The judgment was delivered by CJ Y.V. Chandrachud)


The arguments that were put up from the petitioner’s (Mrs. K. Hingorani) were:

Firstly, that the person was illegal detained and kept into jail even when the court acquitted him. He was kept in jail for 14 years. This clearly showed direct violation of Right to life and personal liberty which is a Fundamental Right and is given under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Secondly the petitioner also said that the State of Bihar should borne the expenses of his medical treatment. He also asked for a compensation for his illegal detention and an ex-gratia payment for his rehabilitation.


The counsel who was acting on behalf of the respondent said that the Additional Sessions Judge passed an order which laid down that the petitioner should be kept in jail and his release could only be done if there was a sanction from State Government and Inspector General of Prisons. He also said that the petitioner was portrayed as unsound mind but later when the surgeon did an examination the petitioner was declared as normal.


The case revolves around the interpretation of Article 32 of the Constitution of India.


After analysing the facts and circumstances of the case, the court issued a notice asking the government to provide reasons for keeping the prisoner in the jail for 14 years even after an order was passed for his acquittal. It was also ordered that the state has to provide medical records of how he was treated. The court saw that even if an unsound mind person is kept in jail, he cannot be imprisoned for a long time. The court saw that the actions of the state were cruel and had no factual basis. Therefore, the court held that the detention was totally unjustified. The court held that if the court was limited to releasing unlawful detainees by order without doing anything to improve their lives, Article 21 of Indian Constitution, which guarantees the personal freedom and right to life would be meaningless. The court held that the compensation is considered an important part in giving a meaning to Article 21 of Indian Constitution. It was also seen that there was a power of enforcement given to the Supreme Court under Article 32. The final judgement said that the state has to pay Rs 30,000 to the petitioner as an interim measure.


Rudal Shah is one of the landmark cases as it made compensation necessary for the violation of Fundamental Rights. In the Rural Shah case it was seen that the provision for compensation is not provided in the Indian Constitution but was according to the interpretation of the court by analysing it under the scope of right to remedy. The judgement that was given under this case overruled the judgement of Kasturilal vs State of UP [1]. It was first time when the Supreme Court granted a compensation for violating a Fundamental Right under its jurisdiction. The court observed that the suffering which was inflicted on Rudal Shah was not because of his own fault but was because of the system. This led to the widening of scope of Article 31. Article 21 of Indian Constitution also included economic and social advancements of the society and the necessary compensation for remedy therefore it became one of the important Fundamental Right. Under the case of Paschim Khet Samity vs State of Bengal [2], Supreme Court held that right to life will include right to health and a compensation will be granted if there is any violation of law. Under the case of Khatri vs Stet of Bihar [3] was the first case which was discussed in reference to awarding compensation in monetary form through writ jurisdiction. The Supreme Court in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India [4] repeated its stand that it took in Rudul Sah that under article 32 not only it can issue direction but it can also forge new remedies and impose new strategies so as to enforce those rights.The Court went on to say that the power under Article 32 was not confined to preventive measure but also included compensatory rights when those were violated. The court further observed that a contrary position which was to not impose any compensatory orders to the state would rob Article 32 of the entire efficacy and render it impotent and futile.
In democracy, the state performs innumerable functions, any misuse of power or property of the
citizens. Sometimes even the fundamental rights are attacked. Such a situation requires an adequate mechanism for determining the liability of the state and compensating the victim. However, it should be pointed out that the state itself has not bothered to enact a law for determining the citizens claims against it. Indian judiciary has taken an onerous task by evolving in its own way some
principles for meeting the aforementioned situation.

The compensation provided for the rehabilitation is pretty low. The amount Rs. 30,000 in addition to the already paid Rs. 5000 is nothing but a mockery of justice. The amount that has been provided is not enough to make up for the loss of 14 precious years of the youth of the petitioner and the resulting physical injury and mental pain caused to the victim of the state’s carelessness. But, according to the court this is just a palliative measure. Also, there should have been on order to have a proper inquiry so that proper justice could have been delivered. The court could have ordered and inquiry to check the lapses in the states’ system so that no other citizen gets to be the victim.


Author :

Sidrah Jami