The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has quashed the detention of journalist Asif Sultan under the Public Safety Act, saying that the authorities did not follow the procedural requirements in letter and spirit while detaining him, Bar and Bench reported on Monday.

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 to maintain public order.

Sultan was detained under the preventive detention law in April 2022, days after a court granted him bail in another case in which he had been in jail under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act since August 2018, for allegedly harbouring militants.

Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul noted in the order passed on Monday that authorities appeared to have taken the case against him under the anti-terror law into consideration while detaining him under the Public Safety Act.

However, the detention record does not show the authorities having supplied Sultan the copies of the First Information Report or the statements recorded under Section 161 of the criminal procedure, the court said.

These documents formed the basis of the detention of Sultan under the Public Safety Act, the court added.

The lack of documents restricted Sultan from meaningfully exercising his right to representation against the detention order, the court said. “It is only after detenu has all the said material available that he can make an effort to convince detaining authority and thereafter the government that their apprehensions vis-à-vis his activities are baseless and misplaced,” the court observed.

Ordering his release from jail, the court held that the failure of the authorities to supply documents to Sultan made the detention order against him illegal and unsustainable.

The development comes weeks after the Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed the detention order of journalist Sajad Gul, who has been held under the Public Safety Act since January 2022.

Similarly, the High Court granted bail to Fahad Shah, the editor of the now-banned news website Kashmir Walla, for an article published in 2011.

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