Day after plea sought Farooq Abdullah, govt slaps public safety act, will prolong his detention

Published: September 17, 2019 4:01:30 AM

The detention of Abdullah under the PSA — earlier, bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal had been detained under PSA after he was stopped at Delhi airport from flying abroad — was made a day ahead of the hearing of a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court.

Farooq Abdullah, public safety act, detention, National Conference leader, subsidiary jail, MDMK leaderFormer chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah.

By Deeptiman Tiwary & Ananthakrishnan G

The J&K administration has slapped the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) on detained former chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, describing him as a “threat to public order”. Under this law, Abdullah may remain under detention up to a year, if not more, at his Srinagar home which is now an officially designated subsidiary jail.

Sources said Abdullah’s detention — he was placed under unofficial house arrest on the eve of the August 5 announcement ending J&K’s special status — was brought under the PSA on Sunday. Within hours, it was ratified by the advisory board which had six weeks to confirm the government order. The detention of Abdullah under the PSA — earlier, bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal had been detained under PSA after he was stopped at Delhi airport from flying abroad — was made a day ahead of the hearing of a writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court.

On Monday, Rajya Sabha MP and MDMK leader Vaiko sought production of Abdullah who could not make it to a seminar in Chennai since he was under detention. On his plea, the bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde and S Abdul Nazeer issued notice to the Centre and J&K administration: “Issue notice returnable on 30.9.2019”.

Senior advocate Ajmal Khan, appearing for Vaiko, told the bench that there were conflicting statements on Farooq’s condition. He said while Union home minister Amit Shah had stated that Abdullah was not under detention, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had said that he was under detention. The CJI then asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta “is he (Abdullah) under detention?”. Mehta replied that he will have to seek instructions to answer the query.

Khan was referring to Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament that Abdullah was not under detention. Responding to Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s query on Abdullah’s whereabouts, Shah said: “I have made it clear thrice, Farooq Abdullah Ji is at his home, he is not under house arrest, he is not under detention. He is in good health, ‘mauj-masti mein hain, unko nahi ana hai toh gun kanpatti par rakh kar bahar nahi la sakte hum’ (he is happy and cheerful, if he doesn’t want to come then we cannot make him do so at gun-point).”

“I am saying it for the fourth time and I have the patience to say it for the tenth time, Farooq Abdullah has neither been detained nor arrested. If he isn’t well, doctors will take him to the hospital. House should not worry. If he was not well, he would not have come out,” Shah said.

In the court room, when the CJI told Khan that he had not brought any detention orders on record in the petition, the counsel replied “we do not have any access”. Khan told the bench that though the original plea was to ensure that Abdullah could participate in a seminar organised by Vaiko in Chennai, it had become infructuous since the seminar got over on September 15. He said he was, therefore, not pressing the plea and was only seeking restoration of liberty available under the Constitution to the people of J&K.

In his plea, Vaiko contended that the Centre and J&K administration “have imposed an ‘undeclared emergency’ in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and have placed an entire state in lockdown for the past one month and has further dealt a body-blow by arresting democratically elected representatives who were instrumental in strengthening democracy in the state”.

He said “this is a ‘conflict between power and liberty’ and the constitutional courts of the land ought to act as a ‘check and balance’ when the executive illegally usurps fundamental rights of lakhs of citizens instead of shielding the executive under the false pretext of national security and integrity”. Contesting his submission, Solicitor General Mehta said Vaiko did not have any locus standi in the matter. Abdullah’s family, he said, had already approached the J&K High Court and “he (Vaiko) does not have any authorisation”.

Later, Kashmir administration sources said: “Farooq Saab has been detained at his residence by Home department under PSA and his house has been declared as Subsidiary Jail. He will continue to stay in his house though. There is no bar on him meeting relatives and friends who visit him. Advisory Board of Home department approved his detention under PSA yesterday.”

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