The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Friday granted bail to journalist Fahad Shah after 21 months in jail, reported The Hindu.
Shah, the editor-in-chief of independent news organisation The Kashmir Walla, was arrested in February last year after the police accused him of glorifying terrorism, spreading fake news and inciting violence. However, he got bail in two out of 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. It 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”.
Although the High Court in April this year quashed Shah’s detention under the Public Safety Act, he continued to remain in jail as he was also facing charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, or UAPA.
A member of his legal team said on Friday that the High Court has quashed charges against him under UAPA Section 18 (abetting the commission of, a terrorist act or any act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act), as well as Indian Penal Code Sections 121 (waging war) and 153-B (promoting enmity between different groups).
However, Shah will continue to face trial under Section 13 (incites unlawful activity) of the anti-terror law and Sections 35 and 39 of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, or FCRA.
Organisations are required to register under the FCRA to receive foreign funds. Legal amendments made to the Act in 2020 extend tighter control over the utilisation of foreign funds by organisations.
“We expect his release soon,” said the member of Shah’s legal team.
The journalist was first arrested on February 4 last year by the Pulwama Police for posting allegedly anti-national content on social media and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He was granted bail after 22 days by a National Investigation Agency court.
However, hours after he got bail, Shah was arrested again on February 26 by the Shopian Police in another case related to provocation of riots. On March 5, 2022, he got bail but was arrested in a third matter immediately.
In this case, Shah had been charged under Indian Penal Code sections that provide punishment for rioting, attempt to murder, abetment, printing or engraving defamatory matter and public mischief.
On March 11 last year, he was charged under the UAPA again after the State Investigation Agency of Jammu and Kashmir filed a chargesheet against him and research scholar Abdul Aala Fazili.
The agency accused them of “narrative terrorism” for an article published in The Kashmir Walla in 2011. The authorities claimed that it was “highly provocative and seditious”.