The state administration in Jammu and Kashmir is forcing detainees to sign a bond that forbids them from speaking against “the recent events” in the state to secure their release, The Telegraph reported on Sunday. The recent events refer to the Centre’s decision to scrap the state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution in August and split it into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The bond is reportedly a tweaked version of a standard document that potential troublemakers are asked to sign under Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The signatories have to sign that they will “not make any comment(s) or issue statement(s) or make public speech(s) hold or participate in public assembly(s) related to recent events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, at the present time, since it has the potential of endangering the peace and tranquillity and law and order in the state or any part thereof for a period of one year”. They have to deposit Rs 10,000 as surety, and in case they breach the bond, they have to pay Rs 40,000.
Over a thousand people, including political leaders, separatists and activists, were detained after a security clampdown in August, ahead of the move to abrogate the special status. Earlier this month, the Jammu and Kashmir Police admitted to arresting 144 minors, including children as young as nine and 11, since August 5.
Several mainstream political leaders such as former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah, and Kashmiri bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal were taken into custody or put under house arrest. National Conference President Farooq Abdullah was booked under the “public order” section of the Public Safety Act, which allows one to be detained for six months without trial.
Earlier this week, women protesting the political arrests in the centre of Srinagar were thrown into jail and released only after they signed bonds prohibiting them from making any public statements.
Activists and lawyers have alleged that the bond was not constitutional but government officials defended it despite denying that there was such a bond.
Jammu and Kashmir Advocate General DC Raina said it was absolutely legal. He said Section 107 of CrPC was to maintain peace, and added that it had the “widest connotations”. “It [the change in language from the original bond under Section 107] does not alter or take away the basic spirit,” Raina told The Telegraph. “The language is only the format, the sense remains the same...I don’t think that [considering the bond illegal] will be the right understanding. It falls within the purview of the law.”
“I have not seen that [the new bond] but from your expression, I get it that it is primarily the added expression or manifested form of the same spirit of the language.”
Senior Additional Advocate General Bashir Ahmad Dar also denied having information about the bond.
High Court lawyer Altaf Khan, who is the counsel for two women who were released after being forced to sign the bond recently, called it illegal and a contradiction of the Constitution. “This [bond] is all new,” he said. “They can make changes but those changes have to be in accordance with the law.” Khan added that the two women were also asked to sign an affidavit apologising for protesting and to promise that they would not repeat the action.
On October 8, Ijtija Mufti, daughter of the detained former chief minister and People’s Democratic Party leader, Mehbooba Mufti, had tweeted from her mother’s account that “the authorities are also blackmailing them [political detainees] to sign ‘bonds’ under which a gag order will be imposed & political activities will be banned”.
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