Case Analysis of Rudul Shah vs. State of Bihar.

Rudul Shah (Appellant) Vs. State of Bihar (Respondent)

Hon’ble Judges– V. Y Chandrachud, C. J. Ranganath Misra and A. N. Sen.

The facts of the case were as follows- 

On June 3, 1968, The Court of Sessions, Muzaffarpur, Bihar acquitted the Petitioner who was convicted on charges of murdering his wife. Still, he was released from jail only on October 16, 1982, which means more than 14 years after he was acquitted.

He filed a habeas corpus petition, enlisted under Article 32, which is a writ petition against infringement of fundamental rights. Employing this petition, the Petitioner asked for his release on the grounds of unlawful detention. Further, he also asked for additional reliefs like rehabilitation, reimbursement of expenses which he may incur for medical treatment as well as compensation for illegal incarceration.

This petition came up before the Supreme Court on November 22, 1982, by which time the Petitioner had already been released from the jail. The relief sought for release had thus become pointless, but the Court decided to take up the case regarding the other reliefs that were demanded by the Petitioner. A show-cause notice inquiring as to why the Petitioner was kept in jail, even after more than fourteen years of his acquittal was issued to the Bihar Government. However, there was no response from the Government’s side for over four months. Finally, On April 16, 1983, the Government filed an affidavit which enlisted the following reasons for the delay in the acquittal of the petitioner:

  1.  A judgement by the Additional Sessions Judge stating that the accused is acquitted, but he should be detained in prison until further order of the State Government and I. G (prisons), Bihar.
  2. Rudul Shah was insane at the time of passing the above order.
  3. The civil surgeon, Muzaffarpur reported on February 18, 1973, that the accused Rudul Shah was sane and this information was given to the law department on February 21, 1973.

Finally, the petitioner was released on October 16, 1982, that is, over more than fourteen years after his acquittal.

Issues –

The main issues that arise in this case are as follows-

  1. The legitimacy of the jailor’s argument that the Petitioner was insane.
  2. Whether the state was correct in detaining the petitioner even after his acquittal or not.
  3. Can the Supreme Court award compensation in a case filed under the writ petition (Article 32) or not.


By V. Y. Chandrachud, J. 

Regarding the first issue, that is, the claim of insanity, the Court opined that no medical record was provided to the Court based on which the Petitioner could be adjudged insane, there was no evidence for treatment taken to cure him and, whether it took over fourteen years to set right the Petitioner’s mental imbalance. There was no proof to show that the Petitioner was found insane on the very date of acquittal. The Court felt that the story of Petitioner’s insanity was an afterthought to hide the insensitive behaviour of the law department or even if he was insane it was because of the effect of unlawful detention he was subjected to.

The second issue was judged by stating the fact that the information regarding the petitioner being sane was provided to the Law department of the Bihar Government on February 21, 1977. However, the petitioner wasn’t released until October 16, 1982, which leaves no doubt about the fact that the detention was unjustified.

The third issue deals with the concept of a writ petition under Article 32. The Court decided upon the question if it could pass an order for compensation for deprivation of fundamental rights. It ruled that an order of the Court denying compensation to the Petitioner would mean a mere ‘lip- service’ to his fundamental right to liberty which was, in fact grossly violated by the state. It further opined that the significance of Article 21 would be divested if the power of the Court was limited to passing an order to release from unlawful detention. Therefore, the state must repair damages done by its officers to the Petitioner’s rights.

Thus, an order was passed ruling the State government to pay the Petitioner a further sum of Rs. 30,000 within two weeks from the day of the judgement, in addition to the Rs. 5000 already paid.

Further, the order didn’t stop the Petitioner from bringing an appropriate suit to recover damages from the state, since this order of compensation was in nature of a palliative only.

Moreover, the Court asked a tabular statement to be released from each jail, disclosing the number of prisoners who have been in jail for more than ten years so that such cases could be looked into for unlawful detention.


This case is the first time that the aspect of monetary compensation was introduced in case of violation of fundamental rights of a person. Therefore, it is a remarkable one. The Court rightly highlights how the prison administration of Bihar is full of darkness and how substantial monetary compensation should be charged on such incidents of violation of Article 21. Moreover, since there was no mechanism available in the jail system either to prevent such unnecessary extra detention or to provide a remedy for such arrest, this case moved a further step ahead by granting compensation. The judgment of this case should be a lesson. However, there remains an auto of doubt since this punishment might not be enough for deterrence because as the Court mentions how even the Bhagalpur blindings case, wherein Bihar police blinded thirty-one individuals under trial by pouring acid into their eyes, was not able to open the eyes of the Prison administration of Bihar.

Unlawful detention is a violation of human rights. Everyone, including the prisoners, has human rights, and these can’t be denied to them. The claim of insanity was a lie that could be seen through. It was a wrong path chosen to protect the prison administration and hide their carelessness. This judgement has succeeded in highlighting the importance of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Article 21 and how violation of the right to personal liberty of a person needs to be compensated by ordering for damages.


Author: Sakshi Sharma,
NUJS, first year

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