Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam walked out free from behind bars this month because J-K officials consistently kept on slipping on their deadlines, first under the Omar Abdullah government and then, the central rule.
But they were surprisingly quick to release him on March 7 without citing any reasons. Alam’s release came just days after PDP patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was sworn in as chief minister on March 1.
Jammu district magistrate Ajeet Kumar Sahu had passed a fresh detention order on 15 September 2014, citing — among other standard reasons — apprehension that Alam could disrupt the assembly polls.
But the detention order — that should have reached the home department within a maximum of 12 days under the J-K Public Safety Act — took 23 days to reach the home department at Srinagar about 300 km from Jammu.
And when the home department asked the legal experts for their opinion, they took several months to conclude that a fresh detention order would be required.
It was only on February 4 that the home department told the Jammu DM that his previous order had lapsed and a new one had to be issued. “However, a fresh order can be issued for detention of detenus after following the procedure prescribed in the Act and directions of the Supreme Court,” the additional secretary at J-K’s home department said in his letter.
It is not clear how many days the order took to reach Jammu DM. But Sahu acted on it a month later, March 7, around the time Mufti government had settled down.
In his directions to the police, he asked the Jammu SSP to set Alam free and inform the home department. Unlike all the previous communications, the directive to free the separatist reached jail authorities and Alam was released within hours of the DM’s orders.