The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has quashed journalist Fahad Shah’s detention under the Public Safety Act, noting that the authorities did not follow procedural requirements in letter and spirit. However, Shah, the editor-in-chief of news portal The Kashmir Walla, will remain in jail as he also faces charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The police had arrested Shah in February last year and accused him of glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting violence. However, he got bail in two out the three cases filed against him. In March last year, the Srinagar district magistrate passed an order to put Shah in preventive detention under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act.

The law 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”.

Last week, Justice Wasim Sadiq Nagral of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court set aside the preventive detention order. In his judgement on April 13, Nagral held that the grounds cited for Shah’s detention were “vague and bald assertions without any specific details”. The judge also noted that the Jammu and Kashmir administration had not denied the journalist’s claim that he was not given a copy of documents on the basis of which the detention order was passed.

The High Court also pointed out that since Shah had not been granted bail in the third case against him, there was no compelling reason to detain him under the Public Safety Act.

Justice Nagral noted that the Srinagar district magistrate had referred to apprehensions that Shah’s activities could disturb public order, and also that his activities were “prejudicial to the security and sovereignty of the country”. The High Court said that these two grounds cannot be used simultaneously as they have different connotations under the Public Safety Act.

The High Court said this showed that the detaining authority had not applied its mind while passing the order against Shah.

“...It is incumbent upon the Court to draw attention towards the fact that the right to life and liberty is one of the most cherished rights enjoyed by citizen and the State is duty bound to protect this precious right in the light of the cherished constitutional freedom,” Justice Nagral further said.