The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Jammu and Kashmir government in a petition filed by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association President Mian Abdul Qayoom, challenging the High Court’s dismissal of his plea against his detention under the Public Safety Act, Bar and Bench reported. Under the Public Safety Act, a person may be detained without trial for three to six years.
The police had arrested Qayoom on the intervening night of August 4 and August 5, 2019, hours before the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution, and imposed a curfew in the state. Qayoom is currently lodged in Tihar Jail in New Delhi, after first being held in a prison in Agra. On May 28, the High Court set aside his plea against his detention, asking Qayoom to “declare and establish” by his conduct that he has “shunned his separatist ideology”.
The petition before the Supreme Court alleged that when Qayoom was arrested last year, he was taken to the prison in Agra without prior intimation and kept in solitary confinement.
The petition added that the High Court upheld Qayoom’s detention based on first information reports filed against him in 2008 and 2010. “These FIRs are stale, irrelevant and have no proximate, pertinent or live link to the present, and are thus superfluous and extraneous to the satisfaction required in law qua the tendency or propensity to act in a manner prejudicial to public order,” Qayoom’s plea said.
The petition also claimed that Qayoom was neither chargesheeted not arrested in connection with the FIRs at the time. He was simply detained under the Public Safety Act and his detention was later revoked. Therefore, the plea argued, the lawyer cannot be detained under the Act once again using the same FIRs.
The plea said that the High Court had agreed that the grounds for the lawyer’s detention were “somewhat clumsy”, yet it upheld the detention. Qayoom’s petition alleged that the High Court’s order is unsustainable in law and “is premised on stale, irrelevant, remote, vague, imprecise and deficient grounds of detention.” The plea also cited Qayoom’s old age and his resulting susceptibility to the coronavirus as reasons that justify his release from detention.
The Supreme Court, apart from issuing notice to the Union Territory administration, also ordered that summer clothing be provided to the lawyer. It will hear the case next in the first week of July.
Detentions under the Public Safety Act
Many Kashmiri politicians were also detained under the Act when India revoked the special status of the Union Territory. Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was released from detention on March 24. After his release, Abdullah demanded the release of other Kashmiri politicians, including former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. Abdullah’s release order came less than a week after the Supreme Court asked the Centre to clarify on its intention to release him from detention.
The administration had released Abdullah’s father on March 13. Farooq Abdullah was detained at his residence in Gupkar Road in Srinagar.
Peoples Democratic Party chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti still remains in detention. On June 8, the Supreme Court sought a response from the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea by Congress leader Saifuddin Soz’s wife, challenging his house arrest since August 5 last year.
The administration, however, released Peoples Democratic Party leader Naeem Akhtar on June 18. The previous day, the administration released National Conference leader and former minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, after the High Court set aside his detention.