The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has quashed the detention of journalist Sajad Gul under the Public Safety Act, saying that there was no specific allegation against him to show that his activities could be “prejudicial to the security of the State”.
The Public Safety Act allows the authorities to hold individuals in custody without trial for up to two years on grounds of national security and up to a year for the maintenance of public order.
Gul was detained under the preventive detention law on January 16 last year, a day after a court had given him bail in a criminal conspiracy case.
In an order passed on November 9 and made public on Saturday, Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice MA Chowdhary observed that the detention order was based on “vague grounds” and directed the authorities to release the Kashmiri journalist.
“...The detaining authority, before passing the order, has not applied its mind to draw subjective satisfaction to order prevention detention of the detenu by curtailing his liberty which is a valuable and cherishable right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the order read.
The judges noted that Gul had not been given the three first information reports registered against him, copies of the dossier, statements of witnesses in the cases and other documents.
“In absence of providing the whole of the documentary record, the detenu cannot be said to be able to make an effective and meaningful representation against his detention which was his statutory as well as constitutional right,” they added.
The grounds of detention, the judges said, do not indicate that Gul had ever uploaded any false story.
“It is nowhere stated as to how the detenu had disrupted the public order,” the order read. “In the grounds of detention, it has also been referred that the uploading of the news items by the detenu, as a journalist, had created enmity and acrimony against government machinery, however, there is no specific instance as to which of the posts/ write ups are there as being so and on what date.”
Action against Gul
The police dossier had claimed that Gul being “well educated”, could use the social media to provoke people against the government and that being a journalist, he “promoted enmity” than reporting about the welfare of Jammu and Kashmir.
A police officer in Bandipora, who did not wish to be identified, had told Scroll last year that officials were acting against Gul’s social media presence rather than his news reports.
The journalist first was arrested on January 6 after he posted a video of family members and relatives of Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Salim Parray protesting against his death in a gunfight on the outskirts of Srinagar.
The video posted on his Twitter account on January 3 showed women shouting anti-government slogans during the protests.
His arrest had been widely condemned, with several journalists’ bodies demanding his release and expressing concern about the crackdown on journalists in Kashmir.
In February 2021, the journalist had been charged with “rioting, trespassing, and assault” for an article he wrote for The Kashmir Walla on February 9, according to the website. In the article, the villagers of Bandipora had alleged that they were being “harassed and threatened” by Tehsildar Hajin Ghulam Mohammad Bhat over the alleged demolition drive in the area.
Later in October that year, Gul was summoned at Hajin police station in Bandipora district for questioning in connection with a news report and a video he posted on Twitter.
The article, published in Mountain Ink magazine, and the video had reported the claims of the family members of a 25-year-old man who was killed in a gunfight. The family members had said that Imtiyaz Ahmad Kakroo was innocent and was killed in a “fake encounter” with the police.