Sister files plea against Omar Abdullah’s PSA detention
Last Thursday, Abdullah and Mufti were booked under the stringent PSA, hours before their six-month-long “preventive detention” was to end. The PSA allows the administration to detain them without trial for up to two years.Updated: Feb 11, 2020 00:34 IST
Former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah’s sister on Monday moved the Supreme Court to challenge his detention under the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA) on the grounds that the order was “manifestly illegal”, even as a political row broke out over reasons behind the action against the National Conference (NC) leader.
Abdullah, his father and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, and another former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti are among several leaders who have been under detention since last August, when the Centre moved to revoke the special status of the state by nullifying Article 370.
Last Thursday, Abdullah and Mufti were booked under the stringent PSA, hours before their six-month-long “preventive detention” was to end. The PSA allows the administration to detain them without trial for up to two years.
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a speech in Parliament, had suggested that comments purportedly made by Abdullahs and Mufti were against the spirit of the Constitution, and asked if any “true Indian” could advocate their cause.
Sara Abdullah Pilot, the NC leader’s sister, filed the petition after reports that an official police dossier cited Abdullah’s political influence even during the peak of militancy to support his detention under PSA.
In her petition, Pilot said: “That the dossier states that the capacity of the subject (detenu) to influence people for any cause ‘could be gauged from the fact that he was able to convince the electorate to come out and vote in huge numbers even during peak militancy and poll boycotts’. In other words, the detenu is accused of convincing people to participate in elections in huge numbers and exercise their democratic right to vote despite threats from militants.”
While the district magistrate’s (DM) official notification detailing the move to charge Abdullah under PSA did not mention the above reason cited in Pilot’s petition, a dossier prepared by the J&K Police to be sent to the administration included the remark. HT has accessed both documents.
A spokesperson for the J&K administration said that the police dossier “is an internal communication” and not a part of the order. He said that a PSA order generally picks up a few points from the DM’s report, the police’s dossier, and the prosecution wing. “What hasn’t been taken on record by the DM is something not taken note of,” the spokesperson said, adding that “what hasn’t been accepted in the ‘Grounds of Detention’ notified by the DM doesn’t form a part of PSA detention”.
However, Shariq Reyaz, Pilot’s lawyer, said the police dossier has to be necessarily construed as a part of the detention order. “It’s the information on which the DM enters satisfaction and passes the order,” he said. “And if it is an internal document, why was it served on him [Abdullah],” Reyaz added.
In her plea in the apex court, Pilot said that the exercise of powers by authorities under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to detain individuals, including political leaders, was “clearly mala fide to ensure that the opposition to the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution is silenced”.
She alleged that Abdullah’s detention was based on “patently false” and “ridiculous” material.
In the Habeas Corpus petition, Pilot prayed for production of Abdullah in Supreme Court, arguing that he was a votary of peace and there was overwhelming evidence in the form of tweets and public statements to prove the same.
“...the Dossier handed over to the detenu along with the order of detention under the PSA contains patently false and ridiculous material, essentially accusing the detenu of becoming a popular figure among general masses and possessing considerable influence over people,” the petition said.
Senior counsel Kapil Sibal mentioned the petition before justice NV Ramana and made a request for urgent listing of the case. The judge said that the requested will be considered for listing.
Abdullah, who was the chief minister of J&K from 2009 to 2014, has been accused by the police in its dossier of “favouring radical thoughts” and of “planning and projecting his activities against the Union of India under the guise of politics while enjoying the support of gullible masses” in the grounds for detention.
Pilot sought quashing of the detention order of February 5 on the ground that the material,on the basis of which the detention order was passed, is not disclosed or supplied to Abdullah. This, she submitted, deprived him of the fundamental right to make an effective representation against the detention order.
“...this Hon’ble Court has, in a catena of judicial pronouncements, held that the non-supply of material forming the basis of the grounds of detention vitiates the order of detention making it unconstitutional and liable to be quashed”, she said.
“The detention order is arbitrary, vague, irrelevant, whimsical and fanciful and deserves to be quashed by an appropriate writ of this court,” Pilot added.
It was also her argument that none of the grounds in the detention order disclosed which prohibited action listed in Section 8(3)(b) of the PSA was committed by Abdullah. This, Pilot alleged, showed complete non-application of mind by the DM, who passed the detention order.
The reports on the contents of the police dossier on Abdullah invited sharp political criticism on Monday. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said it was “pretty clear” that the government had no basis to charge Abdullah and Mufti under PSA. She demanded that the two leaders be freed.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader MY Tarigami termed the grounds for booking the two under PSA as “hilarious” and said it showed the “intellectual and moral bankruptcy” of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre.
The move against Abdullah and Mufti has also triggered sharp reactions in the Valley.
“For all of us, contents of the PSA dossier are surprising. They (ex-CMs) have been charged under frivolous charges. Describing Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti as anti-national is wrong and in no way close to facts,” said Khursheed Ahmad, an educationist who runs a school in north Kashmir.
Social activist and lawyer Irfan Hafiz termed it as unjustified move that won’t stand in court.