The J&K administration has slapped the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) on detained former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, describing him as a “threat to public order” as the lockdown in the Valley entered its 40th day. Under this law, Abdullah may remain under
detention up to a year, if not more, at his Srinagar home which has now been designated a subsidiary jail.
Sources said Abdullah’s detention — he has been under house arrest since the August 5 announcement ending J&K’s special status — was brought
under the PSA Sunday and was ratified within hours by the advisory board which had weeks to confirm the government order.
The move came four days after Rajya Sabha MP and MDMK leader Vaiko filed a writ of habeas corpus, questioning Abdullah’s detention and urging the Supreme Court to seek his production.
A three-term Chief Minister and a former Union Minister, Abdullah, the current Srinagar MP, is the first high-profile leader to be booked under the PSA since the August 5 announcement — bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal had been detained earlier under PSA after he was stopped at Delhi airport from flying abroad. Abdullah’s son Omar Abdullah and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, both former CMs, are also under detention.
On Monday, Vaiko sought production of Abdullah who could not make it to a seminar in Chennai. On his plea, the bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer issued notice to the Centre and J&K administration: “Issue notice returnable on 30.9.2019”.
Senior advocate Ajmal Khan, appearing for Vaiko, told the bench that there were conflicting statements on Farooq. He said while Union Home Minister Amit Shah had stated that Abdullah was not under detention, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had said that he was under detention.
The CJI then asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta “is he (Abdullah) under detention?”. Mehta replied that he will have to seek instructions to answer the query.
Khan was referring to Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament that Abdullah was not under detention. Responding to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s query on Abdullah’s whereabouts, Shah said: “I have made it clear thrice, Farooq Abdullahji is at his home, he is not under house arrest, he is not under detention. He is in good health, ‘mauj-masti mein hain, unko nahi aana hai toh gun kanpatti par rakh kar bahar nahi la sakte hum’ (he is happy and cheerful, if he doesn’t want to come then we cannot make him do so at gun-point).”
“I am saying it for the fourth time and I have the patience to say it for the tenth time, Farooq Abdullah has neither been detained nor arrested. If he isn’t well, doctors will take him to the hospital. House should not worry. If he was not well, he would not have come out,” Shah said.
In the court room, when the CJI told Khan that he had not brought any detention orders on record in the petition, the counsel replied “we do not have any access”. Khan told the bench that though the original plea was to ensure Abdullah’s participation in a seminar organised by Vaiko in Chennai, it had become infructuous since the seminar got over on September 15.
He said he was, therefore, not pressing the plea and was only seeking restoration of liberty available to the people of J&K under the Constitution.
In his plea, Vaiko contended that the Centre and J&K administration “have imposed an ‘undeclared emergency’ in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and have placed an entire state in lockdown for the past one month and has further dealt a body-blow by arresting democratically elected representatives who were instrumental in strengthening democracy in the state”.
He said “this is a ‘conflict between power and liberty’ and the constitutional courts of the land ought to act as a ‘check and balance’ when the executive illegally usurps fundamental rights of lakhs of citizens instead of shielding the executive under the false pretext of national security and integrity”.
Contesting his submission, Solicitor General Mehta said Vaiko did not have any locus standi in the matter. Abdullah’s family, he said, had already approached the J&K High Court and “he (Vaiko) does not have any authorisation”.
Later, Kashmir administration sources said: “Farooq Saab has been detained at his residence by Home department under PSA and his house has been declared as Subsidiary Jail. He will continue to stay in his house though. There is no bar on him meeting relatives and friends who visit him. Advisory board of Home department approved his detention under PSA yesterday.”
Police sources said before the PSA charge was slapped, two NC leaders met Abdullah who told them he was in no mood to relent.