A Supreme Court bench on Monday agreed to hear on March 5 a plea of National Conference leader Omar Abdullah’s sister, Sarah Abdullah Pilot, challenging his detention under the Public Safety Act, reported Live Law. “Yes, it is a matter of personal liberty,” said Justice Arun Mishra as he acknowledged the need for an urgent hearing.
The court was even ready to take up the matter on Tuesday, but Attorney General KK Venugopal, representing the central government, said he was unavailable as he was appearing before another bench.
The habeas corpus plea filed by Pilot demands the physical presence of Abdullah and the quashing of his detention order. Pilot has said in her petition that the dossier “contains patently false and ridiculous material, essentially accusing the detenue of becoming a popular figure among general masses and possessing considerable influence over people”.
During the hearing, Venugopal argued that Pilot directly moved the Supreme Court and never gave a reason as to why she did not approach the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. “There are judgements of the Supreme Court that High Courts should be approached first in cases of detention,” he pointed out, according to The Hindu.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Jammu and Kashmir administration, said Abdullah continued to be a threat to public order. He claimed that the mere presence of the former chief minister would pose an “eminent threat of deterioration of maintaining the public order”.
The affidavit was submitted by the district magistrate. “It is submitted that considering the very peculiar geo-political position of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, and its geographical proximity with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the concept of public order needs to be examined contextually,” said the official, according to News18.
Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Pilot, said his client would file her rejoinder before the next hearing.
Abdullah, along with former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and a few other Kashmiri politicians, has been charged under the Act since February 6. Under the PSA, a person may be detained without trial for three to six years. These leaders have been in detention for six months now since the Centre hollowed out Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5 to abrogate the region’s special status, and bifurcated it into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
The government dossier used to charge Abdullah reportedly stated that he had “considerable influence” and had the ability to draw voters to polling booths. It also stated that he had allegedly tried to provoke people through Twitter against the revocation of the erstwhile state’s special status on August 4, a day before the Centre formally announced it in Parliament. However, no tweets were cited to support the accusations.
Former Chief Minister and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah was charged under the PSA on September 17. It was extended by three months in December.
Several Opposition leaders have questioned the government’s move to charge the politicians under the stringent law.