The Supreme Court on Thursday said PDP leader and former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija was “free to meet her mother in private” in Srinagar, where she is under detention for over a month now following the Centre’s decision to scrap the state’s special status.
The bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer, however, said that “so far as moving around in other parts of Srinagar is concerned, the petitioner would be free to do so subject to requisite permission from the district authorities as and when necessary.”
“Why do you need to move around. It’s very cold in Srinagar,” the CJI said, in a lighter vein.
“From the deliberations that have taken place, we are of the view that the state government has not, and does not, intend to prevent the petitioner from coming back to Srinagar from Chennai, where she is presently staying, and meeting her mother. The petitioner may accordingly return to Srinagar on a date of her choice. She would be free to meet her mother in private,” the court said in its order.
Iltija, who said she is currently in Chennai, had approached the court saying that she “desires to visit Srinagar, and live at her residence in Srinagar, without the curtailment of her liberties in any manner whatsoever…” and that she “desires to visit her mother and meet with her regularly, converse with her in privacy”.
Appearing for her, Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan said Iltija was not allowed to move out of her house or visit her mother when she was in Srinagar from August 5 to 22.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contested this and said Mehbooba’s mother and sister had visited her last month and on September 3. “All they have to do is approach the district magistrate,” Mehta said, adding that he was not sure whether Iltija had done that. He said the petition seemed to be for “ostensible reasons”.
The CJI asked what was preventing Iltija from travelling to her home in Srinagar. Ramakrishnan said there was an apprehension of intimidation and restraint.
Mehta reiterated that she must approach the district administration instead of filing a plea for “ostensible reasons”, before an “august forum” like the Supreme Court.
To this, the CJI asked whether he was trying to say that she could not approach the court, and added that “it’s the privilege of every citizen”.
“Yes, but they must come with clean hands,” said the SG.