Six months after placing them under preventive detention following the abrogation of Article 370 last August, the J&K administration has now invoked the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) against former chief ministers, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. Omar’s father and Parliamentarian Farooq Abdullah is already in detention under the PSA.
The administration has also invoked the PSA against NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar and PDP leader Sartaj Madni. Sources said bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal is also likely to be detained under PSA.
Speaking to The Indian Express, a senior police officer confirmed that the two ex-CMs, Sagar and Madni “have been booked under the PSA”. “But we have not received a warrant against Mufti and Omar since they are under SSG (Special Security Group) cover,” the officer said.
Sources said the government decided to book the ex-CMs under PSA since it was becoming “legally untenable” to keep them under preventive detention for longer.
Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti told The Indian Express that her mother has been booked under the PSA. Later, she posted on Twitter: “Ms Mufti received a PSA order sometime back. Slapping the draconian PSA on 2 ex J&K CMs is expected from an autocratic regime that books 9 year olds for ‘seditious remarks’. Question is how much longer will we act as bystanders as they desecrate what this nation stands for?”
The PSA allows the administration to detain a person without trial for three to six months. It was promulgated in 1978 by a government led by Farooq Abdullah’s father and then Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah as an administrative measure aimed at keeping timber smugglers “out of circulation”.
However, it has been misused by the successive governments against political opponents and to stifle dissent. Last September, Farooq Abdullah became the first mainstream political leader and sitting Parliamentarian in J&K to be booked under PSA.
However, between November and December, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court quashed orders passed under the PSA in at least five cases, ruling that the government did not communicate the grounds of detention to those detained and hence violated fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
In a strong indictment, the High Court, delivering its verdict in the Habeas Corpus petitions filed by the relatives of those detained under the PSA, had said the orders violated Article 22(5) of the Constitution which mandates the government to communicate to the detained person grounds on which the order has been made — and afford them the earliest opportunity of making a representation against the order.
On Thursday, the NC and PDP slammed the government’s move. “For 70 years, we held the Indian flag in Jammu and Kashmir and this is how the government is rewarding us. The people of Kashmir see us as collaborators and New Delhi sees us as enemies,” said a PDP leader.
An NC leader said the PSA move suggests that New Delhi “is not ready yet for any political outreach” in Jammu and Kashmir.
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