Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Monday defended Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in August that National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was not detained at the time, the Hindustan Times reported. Abdullah is the Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar.
Abdullah, along with two other former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, were detained after the Centre stripped the erstwhile state of its special status in August. In September, Farooq Abdullah was charged under the “public order” section of the Public Safety Act, which allows authorities to detain a person for six months without trial. The Centre has repeatedly claimed the leaders were under detention as a precautionary measure.
Opposition leaders in the Lok Sabha on Monday raised concerns about Farooq Abdullah’s detention and called it illegal. Recalling Shah’s statement that Abdullah was not detained in August, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said: “But Farooq Abdullah is still in custody...What injustice is this?”
But Birla defended Amit Shah, who was not in the House on Monday, saying, “It was true at that point of time.” He added that Abdullah was detained formally only at a later stage and referred to rules that make it mandatory for authorities to inform the Speaker if a member is arrested or detained. “Till I don’t get this information, this House does not treat it as an arrest,” the Speaker said.
On September 15, a day before the Supreme Court was to hear a habeas corpus petition against Farooq Abdullah’s detention, the government invoked the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act – a preventive detention law – against him. His house on Srinagar’s Gupkar Road was declared a subsidiary jail. Most reports said that he had already been under detention for about six weeks by then.
On August 6, Home Minister Amit Shah had claimed in Parliament that Abdullah was “neither detained nor arrested”, when members questioned his absence from the Lok Sabha debate that day on Article 370 of the Constitution. “I have made it clear thrice, Farooq Abdullah ji is at his home, he is not under house arrest, he is not under detention,” Shah had said, adding that he could not drag Abdullah to Parliament at gunpoint if he did not wish to come. “He is willingly sitting back at home,” Shah had claimed.
However, Abdullah refuted the claim in a brief statement to the media outside his home soon after. He said he had been detained in his house and expressed sadness that the “ home minister can lie like this”.