The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing on the plea by Sara Abdullah Pilot challenging the detention of her brother and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) after one of the judges on a three-judge bench recused himself.
“I am not participating in this matter,” Justice M Shantanagoudar said as the petition came up on Wednesday.
The bench, headed by Justice N V Ramana, also comprises Justice Sanjiv Khanna.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Pilot, urged the bench to list the matter for Friday. The bench agreed.
In the plea, Sara had contended that Omar’s detention under the PSA was “ex-facie mala fide, for entirely political considerations” and urged court to quash it.
The petition stated, “It is rare that those who have served the nation as Members of Parliament, Chief Ministers of a state, ministers in the Union, and have always stood by the national aspirations of India are now perceived as a threat to the state.”
The grounds on which the detention has been ordered are “false and illusory to the extent of being non-existent and are not grounds within the contemplation” of the PSA, it contended.
“Apart from the obvious fact that disagreement with the policies of the Central government is a lawful right of a citizen in a democracy (especially to a member of the Opposition), it is submitted that all such observations were not supported by any material whether in the form of social media posts or otherwise,” the petition said.
It added that at no point of time in his “prolific political career”, has Omar resorted to or indulged in conduct unbecoming of a “conscientious public figure”.
Sara’s petition said a “reference to all public statements and messages” posted on social media by her brother “during the period up to his first detention would reveal that he has kept calling for peace and co-operation — messages which in Gandhi’s India cannot remotely affect public order”.
It submitted that Omar has been detained since August 5, 2019. Initially, he was placed under house arrest and later a provision of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was invoked, the petition pointed out. It said the “exercise of powers under CrPC…was clearly mala fide to ensure that the opposition to the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution is silenced”.
The plea contended that the “intent” was to “incarcerate not just him, but the entire leadership of the National Conference, as well as the leadership of other political parties, who were similarly dealt with, including Farooq Abdullah, who has served the state and the Union over several years and who has stood by India whenever the situation so demanded.”
Alleging “grave violation of Articles 14, 21 and 22 of the Constitution,” the plea said that a similar detention order has been issued to other detenues in a “mechanical manner…which suggest that there has been a consistent and concerted effort to muzzle all political rivals”.
Sara said the fresh detention lacks proper grounds as well as material facts.
The plea claimed that the detention under PSA “conflates ‘governmental policy’ with the ‘Indian state’, suggesting that any opposition to the former constitutes a threat to the latter”.
It said, “This (detention under PSA) is wholly antithetical to a democratic polity and undermines the Indian Constitution”.
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