Ordering the release of human rights activist Khurram Parvez, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed his detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA), saying that the government order was “illegal” and that the “detaining authority has abused its powers”.
J&K Police had picked up Parvez from his home in Srinagar on September 16, a day after he was not allowed to board a Geneva-bound flight from Delhi to attend a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. On September 21, Parvez was booked under the PSA and lodged in Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail.
On Friday, Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar said in his order that District Magistrate (Srinagar) Farooq Ahmad Lone had “arbitrarily” ordered the detention and that nothing was “brought to the notice of the court” to show Parvez “as an accused”.
“…he (the detaining authority) has not been sure whether the activities of the detenue were prejudicial to the security of the state or maintenance of public order… the detention order suffers from lack of application of mind on the part of the detaining authority,’’ the order said.
“Though it is the duty of the state and its authorities to maintain peace in society, it is equally their responsibility to ensure that laws, which they invoke to achieve such purpose, are followed and complied with honestly,” the order said.
Referring to the PSA, the court said that the preventive detention law can lead to an individual being deprived of his personal liberty. “A society, which has catapulted itself to the highest position of democratic values and principles, may not accept the law like the Act of 1978,” Justice Attar observed in the order.
“However, it is deemed appropriate not to dilate on this issue, in as much as, neither the Act of 1978 nor any of the provisions is in challenge in this petition,” the order said.
The court, however, raised serious questions about the case against Parvez, and said that police witnesses made “parrot-like statements” that the activist was instigating people to raise slogans.
Finding fault with the investigation, the court said that “…these allegations are made against some other person and not the detenue, as his (detenue’s) parentage is Pervaiz Ahmad Sheikh and not Manzoor Ahmad (as recorded by police). Even (the) residential address of the detenue is different.”
The court also said that the police complaint against Parvez did not specify what slogans he had asked people to raise. “Merely raising slogans, without specifying the nature of such slogans, would not become the basis for initiation of action,” the order said.
The J&K government had on Thursday opposed Parvez’s plea for release and described him as “an anti-social element known for his anti-national activities”.
J&K Additional Advocate General Mohammad Iqbal Dar had submitted that people like Parvez were enjoying “cosy lives” and that “there were three suitcases with him” with “foreign clothing” inside when he was taken to jail.
Parvez’s family accused the government lawyer of “character assassination” on Parvez who suffers from a physical disability. Family sources said that there was only one suitcase with Parvez at the time, apart from crutches and a toilet seat.
“There was no legal relevance to what the government said. The state has been doing it from the beginning. It started with stopping him at the Delhi airport and led to the magisterial orders that have now been quashed,” said Parvez Imroz, the defence counsel.
Khurram Parvez heads the Asian Federation Against involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and is program coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). In 2006, he was conferred the international Reebok Human Rights Award, which “recognises young activists who have made significant contributions to human rights causes through non-violent means”.
In 2004, Parvez was monitoring elections in Lolab for his civil society group when an improvised explosive device blew up his car, killing his colleague and the driver. Parvez was seriously injured and lost a leg.