Will challenge detention, says NC
SC notice to Centre, J&K
SRINAGAR, Sept 16: Former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, under detention since August 5, has now been booked under a provision of the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) which allows authorities to detain an individual for six months without trial, official sources said today.
The tough law against the 81-year-old patron of the National Conference, confined to his home since the Government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, was imposed on Sunday, the sources said.
The three-time Chief Minister’s Gupkar Road residence has been declared a jail through a Government order, they said.
He has been arrested under the ‘public order’ of the PSA, which empowers authorities to detain him for six months without trial. The PSA has two sections-‘public order’ and ‘threat to security of the State’, the former allowing for detention without trial for six months and the latter for two years.
Abdullah, the Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar, is the first Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister to be booked under the PSA.
His detention under the PSA came a day before the Supreme Court today asked the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to respond to a plea that the former Chief Minister be produced before a court.
The petition was filed by MDMK leader Vaiko, who sought Abdullah’s release so he could attend an event in Chennai. Vaiko and Abdullah are said to be close friends for four decades.
The PSA is applicable only in Jammu and Kashmir. Elsewhere in the country, it is the National Security Act (NSA).
Abdullah’s son and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and another former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, as well as several other leaders have also been under detention since August 5, when the Government announced the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and the bifurcation of the State into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court today directed the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to respond to a plea which has sought that former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, under detention following scrapping of the State’s special status under Article 370, be produced before the court.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer issued notice to the Centre and the State administration and asked them to file their replies by September 30 on the plea by Rajya Sabha MP and MDMK leader Vaiko.
“Is he (Abdullah) under detention?” the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for Jammu and Kashmir.
Without going into the issue of whether Abdullah has been kept under detention, Mehta said, “I do not have a copy of the petition. I have to take instruction on this.”
There was no word by the lawyers from any side during the hearing that the Jammu and Kashmir administration has slapped Public Safety Act to detain him under the stringent law.
Vaiko’s counsel told the Apex Court that there were conflicting claims about Abdullah’s status and he has been illegally detained by the authorities, which was an attack on his fundamental rights under the Constitution.
“The claim of Union Home Minister is that he (Abdullah) was not detained whereas the National Security Advisor has said that he is detained. There are conflicting claims,” the counsel said, adding that citizens of Jammu and Kashmir are citizens of India and the authorities cannot treat a person like this.
The lawyer said Vaiko’s submission in the plea that authorities should allow Abdullah to attend a “peaceful and democratic” annual conference, which was to be organised in Chennai on September 15 on the occasion of birthday of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister C N Annadurai, has now become infructuous.
“I am pressing for the original prayer for producing him (Abdullah) before the court,” the counsel said.
After the bench issued notice on Vaiko’s petition, Mehta questioned his locus in filing a ‘habeas corpus’ petition — a writ requiring a person under detention or arrest to be produced before a court.
“He (Vaiko) has no locus. How can he file a habeas corpus petition? He is not his relative. His (Abdullah) relatives have approached the High Court there,” Mehta said.
The bench however, asked the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to file their responses on Vaiko’s plea.
In his plea, Vaiko, who said that he has been a close friend of Abdullah for the past four decades, has contended that constitutional rights conferred on the National Conference leader had been deprived of on account of “illegal detention without any authority of law”.
“The actions of the respondents (Centre and Jammu and Kashmir) are completely illegal and arbitrary and violative of the right to protection of life and personal liberty, right to protection from arrest and detention and also against right to free speech and expression which is the cornerstone of a democratic nation,” the plea has said.
“The right to free speech and expression is considered to have paramount importance in a democracy as it allows its citizens to effectively take part in the governance of the country,” it said.
Vaiko said he had written a letter to the authorities on August 29 to allow Abdullah to travel to Chennai to attend the conference on September 15 but they have not responded.
He has said in his plea that he had spoken to Abdullah over phone on August 4 and had invited him to attend the conference.
He claimed that Abdullah had “verbally communicated” that he would be glad to attend the conference but on August 5, Abdullah along with other political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir were placed under “wrongful detention”.
The Centre had on August 5 revoked Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and proposed that the state be bifurcated into two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Meanwhile, the National Conference (NC) today said that detention of its president Dr Farooq Abdullah under the Public Safety Act (PSA) has dangerous consequences and would not discourage people of State.
While condemning the detention of Abdullah, under PSA, the party said that the State has been put under martial law, sidelining all the democratic and Constitutional ways.
A statement issued here by the two Parliamentarians of National Conference, Hasnain Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone said that the Act has exposed the claims of the Central Government that abrogation of the Article 370 and 35A has been accepted by the people of the State. “It has also busted their claims of normalcy in the State”, the statement read.
The statement said that it has also busted the another claim of the Home Minister Amit Shah wherein he said that Abdullah was not under house arrest but was staying in his house out of his own will. “It has also exposed the propaganda of the Central Government and the Governor administration”, the statement said.
They questioned how can a person who has been three time Chief Minister and a Union Minister and Parliamentarian disturb the public order. “Such measures could have dangerous consequences they should keep this thing in mind. The party will continue to fight against every such move in a democratic way”, he added.
Earlier, in the day Gupkar area was sealed by the security forces and no movement was allowed along the Gupkar road where Abdullah lives.
The Congress also strongly condemned former Dr Abdullah’s detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA), saying it is the country’s “misfortune” that the leaders who fought for its unity and integrity have been put behind bars.
Reacting to the development, Congress Rajya Sabha MP and Leader of Opposition in the House Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “I strongly condemn it. It is most unfortunate that a (former) Chief Minister of one of the oldest political parties in Kashmir (has been detained).
“Each Chief Minister, and each political party be it Congress, National Conference and People’s Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir have tried their level best to fight militancy. If there is no militancy today, it is because of these political parties and not the BJP,” he told reporters.
If the leaders who fought against militancy and for the unity and integrity of the country are put behind bars under the PSA, it is “misfortune” of the country, he said.
PSA was enacted by Sheikh 4 decades ago
Never would Sheikh Abdullah have imagined that his son Farooq would one day be arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) which he, as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 1978, enacted to fight timber smugglers in the State.
The stringent PSA was introduced in Jammu and Kashmir to tackle timber smuggling as those involved in the crime at that time would easily get away with minimal detention, officials said today.
Sheikh Abdullah brought the Act as a deterrent against timber smugglers as it provided a jail term, without a trial, for up to two years.
However, this Act came in handy for the police and security forces during the early 1990s when militancy erupted in the state, the officials said.
After the then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed enforced the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state in 1990, the PSA was used rampantly for picking up people in the state.
On Monday though, the four-decade old act was used by the police to detain Sheikh Abdullah’s son Farooq, himself a three-term Chief Minister and five-time Parliamentarian.
Detention under the PSA is subject to periodic review by an official screening committee and can be challenged in High Court.
The Act was amended in 2012 and some of its stricter provisions were relaxed. After the amendment, period up to which a first-time offender or individual can be put in detention without trial was reduced from two years to six months.
However, a provision has been kept in the Act to extend the detention, if necessary, to up to two years, they said.
Sheikh Abdullah’s grandson, Omar Abdullah, who has also served the State as a Chief Minister, had promised during the Lok Sabha elections that if his Government comes to power in the State, it would press for abolition of the PSA. (PTI)