Rudul Sah V. State of Bihar and Another (1983)

Author: Ritika Gupta, a student at the Institute of Law Kurukshetra University Kurukshetra

This article deals with the unlawful detention of an a person from State of Bihar(Rudul Sah). In this case a Public Interest Litigation was filed in the Supreme Court by the petitioner demanding compensation for infringement of his fundamental rights.


As the society evolves ,law also changes according to the needs of the society. The judiciary plays an important role in the development of law and set out precedents for future. One such step was taken by Judiciary in the landmark case of Rudul Sah V. State of Bihar (1983). This case was a Public Intrest Litigation (PIL) that had brought before the Supreme Court of India. This case deals with the state liability, the writ jurisdiction and also the fundamental rights that are mentioned in the Constitution of India. It is particularly a notable case for addressing the issue of wrongful detention and also for concept of compensation to the individuals whose fundamental rights are infringed.

*Key Points of the Case


AIR (1983) SC 1086

Judgement Date

1 August 1983


Supreme Court of India


Rudul Sah


State of Bihar and Another

•Represented by

Petitioner: Advocate K. Hingorani

Respondents: Advocate D. Goburdhan

•Bench / Quorum

Hon’ble Justice Y.V. Chandrachud

Hon’ble Justice A.N Sen

Hon’ble Justice Rangnath Misra

•Provisions involved

Article 32 of the Indian Constitution

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution

*Explanation of Provisions

Article 21: It provides Right to life and personal liberty and also states that no person can be deprived of personal liberty and life expect on the breach of law.

Article 32:It provides the power to Supreme Court to issue writs , directions and orders for the enforcement of the fundamental rights incorporated in Part lll of the Constitution of India .

*Background of the Case

Rudal Sah was detained under the charge of murder of his wife in 1953. He was acquitted by the Session Court for the same declaring him innocent of all the charges put on him. He was still kept in prison for over 14 years after being found not guilty, and on October 16, 1982, he was released finally. In 1986, media highlighted his situation, which inspired him to file the Public Interest Litigation for the injustice done with him.

*Facts of the Case

The petitioner of this case, Rudul Sah was arrested in 1953 on the charges of murdering his wife. On June 3, 1968, he was acquitted by the Muzaffarnagar Session Court after serving his sentence. Despite his acquittal, he was kept in prison for more than 14 years without any legal grounds. The Fundamental Rights of the person under Article 21 and 32 both were infringed by this unlawful detention. So, the petitioner filed a writ petition of “Habeous Corpus”(to have a body) in the Supreme Court. The petitioner demanded relief under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution and also sought compensation for his illegal imprisonment, payment for rehabilitation and reimbursement for the medical treatment because of his sufferings. The petitioner was released from the prison before the case was presented in the Supreme Court of India. The Court issued a notice to the State and focused on ancillary reliefs sought to the petitioner. The jailor drafted an affidavit on behalf the state and put two documents stated that despite being the acquittal, the order was issued by the additional session Judge, which required the petitioner to remain in prison until state of Bihar issue any order. Secondly, he was declared unsound mind and incapable of facing prosecution at the time when order was made by the Sessions Court. After, medical treatment the petitioner was deemed normal in a medical test conducted by the civil surgeon. The medical reports were submitted in the law department in February 1977 and were issued in October 1982.

*Issues before the Court

•whether the petitioner is entitled to compensation under the ambit of Article 32 of the Constitution of India?

•whether the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution includes right to compensation for the violation of the right to personal liberty?

•whether a citizen of India can avail defence against the arbitrariness of the state ?

*Arguments of Petitioner

The petitioner counsel contended the following arguments:

1. The petitioner was illegally detained in the prison after being acquitted by the court for a additional period of 14 years.

2. They also contended that the unlawful detention is a direct infringement of the right to life and personal liberty that is incorporated under the Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

3. In addition, they requested  for a medical expenses from the State of Bihar or at least be reimbursed for the medical treatment the petitioner may have incurred.

4. Furthermore, they also contended to compensate for the wrongful detention and an ex- gratia payment to aid in his recovery.

*Arguments of the Respondents:

The arguments made by the respondent side is as follows:

1. The petitioner was detained in jail as per the order issued by the Additional Sessions Judge, Muzaffarpur. According to the order, the petitioner would be acquitted only after the orders were given by the State government of Bihar or the Generals of Prisons of Bihar.

2. The respondent also argued that the petitioner was deemed unsound mind but was later was declared mentally stable and released by recieving certificate from the civil surgeon and a letter from the legal department stating that the petitioner was normal and stable.

3. It was also asserted by the respondent side that, the petitioner was given proper treatment in accordance with the guidelines mentioned in the Jail Manual of Bihar during his period of his detention.


The  Supreme Court issued the petition by taking Article 21 into the consideration and stated in the favour of the Rudul Sah (Petitioner) that the fourteen years imprisonment despite the acquittal, was both illegal and unjustified. The court in this case highlighted that  Supreme Court has power under the Article 32 of the Constitution to issue writs for protection and enforcement of the fundamental rights incorporated in the Constitution of India. To enforce those fundamental rights, court can grant  compensation to the person whose fundamental rights are violated. If the State violates the fundamental rights of an individual, then State can be liable to compensate that individual. Despite the fact that he was mentally unstable, his detention was still unlawful. The state of mind cannot strip of his rights. This, the Court action was held unlawful by the court.

So, in this case court ordered the Government of Bihar as a temporary remedy to pay the petitioner an additional sum of Rs. 30,000 in addition to the Rs. 5,000 which was already paid. The compensation was ordered to be paid within two weeks from the date of judgement. The court further held that aforesaid order did not restrict the petitioner from filing a further lawsuit against the State and it’s officials to obtain proper damages. Since, his detention was unlawful, he can also claim under the torts for the false imprisonment which means civil cause of action can also be envoked against the State.

The court also advised the State to re- examine the prison of the Bihar and it’s administration, so that the injustice done under the prison can be checked. The Supreme Court also gave directions to the High Court of Patna to release those prisoners who are detained unlawfully. Furthermore,it was also directed to the High court of Patna by the Supreme Court to compensate those prisoners who are unlawfully detained in prisons of Bihar and to take proper steps for their rehabilitation.

Significance of the Case:

This case is a cornerstone in the Indian jurisprudence as it underscores the pro active role by the judiciary in enforcing the fundamental rights. This case sets out many principles that act as precedents in present legal system of India which are as follows:

• Firstly, this case highlighted the remedial powers under Article 32.

• This case also laid down the principle of monetary remedies for the breach of fundamental rights.

• The concept of State liability was also emerged from this case.

Critical Analysis:

•This is a landmark case expanded the scope of Article 21 as now it also includes right to get compensation, if the fundamental rights of an individual is violated.

•This case also highlighted the need for a better prison administration and accountability to prevent abuse of power.

•The monetary compensation was inadequate according to the severity of the detention which was a long term of 14 year.

•This case also overruled the previous judgment of the Supreme Court in “Kasturilal Ralia Ram Jain V. State of Uttar Pradesh” (1964),in which the State was held immune from any tortuous liability.


In the end, it can be concluded that this case highlighted the judiciary role in providing effective remedies for the violation of fundamental rights and this case also strengthens the Indian legal system. This case positively expanded the scope of Article 21 and established the principle of State liability for violation of rights. This case also highlighted the limitations and challenges within the legal system in ensuring consistent protection of fundamental rights and serves as critical reference point for the ongoing discourse on human rights and judicial accountability in India.

*Frequently Asked Questions

1. What was the compensation awarded to Rudul Sah?

The Supreme Court awarded an interim compensation of Rs.30,000 and with the possibility that the petitioner can pursue for further remedy for an additional compensation through the civil suit for false imprisonment.

2. What are some similar cases like the case of Rudul Sah V. State of Bihar ?

There are many similar nature cases like this present case that include the principle of monetary compensation for violation of fundamental rights.

The cases are Nilabati Behera V. State of Orissa and Bhim Singh V. State of Jammu and Kashmir.

3. Did this judgement lead the any legislative changes?

This judgement itself did not result in the immediate legislative changes. It highlighted the need for reforms in the criminal justice system and also concerning the rights of detainees and providing release and compensation to the individuals who are in unlawful detention.

4. What are the grounds on which Rudul Sah challenged the detention?

This case was challenged on the grounds that it was a unlawful detention which infringes the right to life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

5. What was the outcome of this case?

The Supreme Court held the State liable for the unlawful detention

The Court ordered the State of Bihar to pay Rudul Sah monetary compensation to Rudul Sah.

6. What is the writ of habeous corpus?

It is a Latin term which means to have a body. It is issued by the Supreme Court under Article 32 and High Court under Article 226. This writ helps the person to presents in the court, who was unlawfully detained.

Rudul Sah V. State of Bihar and Another (1983)

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