Journalist Fahad Shah has been booked under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law, his counsel Umair Ronga said on Monday. Shah is the editor-in-chief of news portal The Kashmir Walla.
The Act allows the authorities to hold individuals in custody without trial for up to two years to prevent them from acting in any manner that is prejudicial to “the security of the state or the maintenance of the public order”.
The law allows a person to be detained without a formal charge and without trial and can be and an individual under the provision while being in police custody. It can be used immediately after a person has been granted bail and even if they have been acquitted by a court.
Shah has been arrested in three cases and granted bail in two of them.
His lawyer said that the authorities him had booked under theJammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act sensing that the court may grant Shah bail in the third case too, as the allegations against him “does not prima facie connect him with the commission on any offence”.
The journalist is presently lodged at the Safakadal Police Station in Srinagar in connection with a case filed against The Kashmir Walla in the city for its reporting in May 2020.
The journalist was first arrested on February 4 by Pulwama Police for posting allegedly anti-national content on social media and booked under the the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He was granted bail after 22 days by a National Investigation Agency court.
However, hours after he got bail on February 26, Shah was arrested again the same day by Shopian Police in another case related to provocation for riots. On March 5, he got bail in the second matter but was arrested immediately in the Srinagar case.
In this case, Shah had also been charged under Sections 147 (rioting), 307 (attempt to murder), 109 (abetment), 501 (printing or engraving defamatory matter) and 505 (public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code. On March 11, he was charged under UAPA.
On March 12, The Kashmir Walla said in a statement that the authorities have dropped the charges under Sections 109, 147 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code. The news portal, however, said it was not clear when the UAPA charges were added.
On February 5, the Jammu and Kashmir Police had accused Shah of “glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting general public for creating law and order situation”.
On February 6, several press bodies, including the Editors Guild, had demanded that Shah be released immediately. The Editors Guild had asked the authorities in the Union Territory to ensure that FIRs, intimidatory questioning and wrongful detainment was not used as tools for suppressing press freedom.
In its dossier for the use of the Act against Gul, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had justified the move suggesting he might be granted bail otherwise. The authorities had claimed that Gul’s release would be a threat not only to the Bandipora district, but to the entire Kashmir Valley.