Farooq Abdullah held under stringent Public Safety Act
The Jammu & Kashmir administration issued an order on Monday notifying that Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah had been detained under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA), hours before the Supreme Court asked the Centre and J&K administration to respond to a petition demanding the former chief minister be produced before the court.
Supporters of Abdullah say the 81-year-old National Conference (NC) leader has been under house arrest since August 5, when J&K was stripped of special status and bifurcated. But Union home minister Amit Shah said last month that Abdullah was neither arrested nor detained but was at home “out of his own free will”. The NC said it will legally and constitutionally challenge the PSA detention.
Officials told news agency PTI that Abdullah was served the PSA notice at 1am on Monday and his Gupkar road house declared a subsidiary jail through a government order. He was booked in the “public order” provision of the Act, under which a person can be kept in jail from three to six months without a trial.
In the Supreme Court, which was hearing a habeas corpus petition by Rajya Sabha MP Vaiko, the status of Abdullah was unclear during the hearing.
“Is he [Farooq Abdullah] under detention,” Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who said he would need to get instructions from the J&K administration.
Mehta also opposed issuing of a formal notice to the government on the petition, arguing that Vaiko did not have “a locus standi in this case”.
”It is an abuse of process by the petitioner. What was he doing till now ? He does not have any authorisation to file the petition on Farooq Abdullah’s behalf,” Mehta argued.
The three-judge bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde and SA Nazeer, told the Centre to respond before September 30, when it will take up the petition again.
Arguing for Vaiko, senior advocate Ajmal Khan told the court that there is uncertainty over the status of Abdullah as the home minister had said he has not been detained, but he didn’t have any right to movement or liberty.
In his petition, Vaiko said Abdullah was to participate in the birth anniversary celebrations of late Tamil Nadu chief minister, CN Annadurai, also the founder of the Dravidian movement, on September 15, but he could not be located because of his detention by the government.
The PSA has two sections -- “public order” and ”threat to security of the state” -- the former allowing for detention without trial for six months and the latter for two years.
Abdullah’s son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah and another former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, as well as several other Kashmiri leaders are also under alleged preventive detention. Many politicians are said to have been detained at the Centaur hotel in the Sher- e-Kashmir International Convention Centre, which has been declared as a sub-jail by the government.
To challenge a PSA order, a person may approach the government within 10 days of the order. If the representation is rejected, they may approach the high court within a period of two months. Rules stipulate that such applications should be heard by a special bench of the high court composed of three judges.
The NC described the action against Farooq as unfortunate and said it will mount a legal challenge.
“They have no justification to do that, but if they have booked him [Farooq] under the PSA, then what can we do. We can only approach the courts. We will take constitutional and legal recourse,” senior NC leader Mohammad Akbar Lone told reporters in Srinagar.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, also condemned the action.
“I strongly condemn it. The action against a former chief minister and leader of one of the oldest political parties in Kashmir is unfortunate,” Azad said.
Last week, the J&K high court directed deputy commissioner of Srinagar to arrange a meeting of two NC MPs with Farooq and Omar Abdullah, but barred the two MPs -- Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi -- from sharing any details of their meeting with the press.
Masoodi said on Monday that imposing PSA on Abdullah was beyond belief.
“In what way can he be a threat to the security or public order and what are the grounds of the detention? Dr Farooq has been the CM of the state thrice. He has been a Union minister and he is an MP also. How can he be treated as a threat to the security of the state or public order? I just fail to see what the grounds of detention can be ,” he added.
(with agency inputs)