Farooq Abdullah Booked Under Four-Decade-Old Law Enacted by Father

The 81-year-old patron of the National Conference has been under house arrest since 5 August.

Updated
India
6 min read
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has been detained under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).
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Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has been detained under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA), which enables authorities to detain any individual for two years without trial, news agency PTI reported on Monday, 16 September, quoting sources.

The 81-year-old patron of the National Conference has been under house arrest since 5 August when the Centre announced the abrogation of the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union territories.

Abdullah has been detained under the PSA, official sources told PTI, adding that he was slapped with the law on Sunday night.

Farooq Abdullah's Detention Draws Criticism

Meanwhile, the NC described the action against Farooq as unfortunate and a matter of shame and said it will mount a legal challenge.

“They have no justification to do that, but if they have booked him (Abdullah) under the PSA, then what can we do. We can only approach the courts. We will take constitutional and legal recourse.”
Mohammad Akbar Lone, senior NC leader

"I strongly condemn it. The action against a former chief minister and leader of one of the oldest political parties in Kashmir is unfortunate."

CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim, on the other hand, accused Union Home Minister Amit Shah of lying on the floor of Parliament over Farooq Abdullah's detention in Kashmir in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution.

In a tweet, the Left leader attached a video grab of Shah in Parliament last month, in which the home minister said Abdullah was neither detained nor arrested.

"Amit Shah lied on the floor of the Parliament, claiming that Farooq Abdullah didn't come to Lok Sabha on his own will but today we all know that Mr Abdullah had been under detention since 4 August, under the draconian PSA. Does India's Home Minister has any credibility today? (Sic)", Salim tweeted.

Stating that the use of PSA on Abdullah is the latest in the “series of human rights violations” in Kashmir, Amnesty India said on Monday that the move is a “blatant abuse of the law” by the Indian government.

How can Abdullah be a threat if the PM himself met him a day before the abrogation of Article 370? the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) asked in a tweet on Monday.

“An 80-year-old former CM has been clubbed with separatist Masarat Alam. What message is the BJP sending?” the tweet said.

Congress’s Shah Nawaz Khan also “strongly condemned” the detention of Farooq Abdullah under the PSA.

Noted journalist Barkha Dutt also condemned Farooq Abdullah’s detention saying it is both “undemocratic and unwise”.

Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha state president Gaurav Goel, however, defended the government move saying Abdullah “ has (been) rightly detained under the PSA which was introduced by his father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.”

To drive his point across, he tweeted a famous proverb in Kashmiri, which translates to” “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

Terming Abdullah’s detention under the Public Safety Act as surprising, National Panthers Party (NPP) chief Bhim Singh claimed that the law lost its relevance after special status to the erstwhile state was abrogated on last month.

Singh, a senior executive member of the Supreme Court Bar Association, urged President Ram Nath Kovind to give a clear direction to the J&K administration to not use rules and laws that have ceased to operate after withdrawal of Article 35A on 5 August, PTI reported.

It's a surprise for millions of law knowing people in the country and the lawyers' community that Abdullah has been detained in his own house in Srinagar under an order by the J&K administration under the "outdated" PSA, the NPP leader said in a memorandum to the president.

“I wondered how the administration operating under President’s Rule can allow such a law (the PSA) to operate which has lost its constitutional validity itself under President’s Rule in J&K after Article 35A was withdrawn.”
Bhim Singh, National Panthers Party chief

He urged Kovind to issue appropriate directions to authorities to release all the prisoners detained under the PSA.

“Since J&K is under President’s Rule, it is only the president who is empowered to take appropriate constitutional or legal action vis-a-vis J&K till 31 October. It is urged that the president may seek appropriate opinion of the attorney general of India,” Singh said.
Bhim Singh, National Panthers Party chief, as quoted by PTI

What Is the Public Safety Act?

  • Sheikh Abdullah, the chief minister of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1978, had enacted the the Public Safety Act (PSA) to fight timber smuggling. The stringent Act provided a jail term, without a trial, for up to two years. However, this Act came in handy for the police and security forces during the early 1990s when militancy erupted in the former state, PTI quoted officials as saying on Monday.
  • The PSA is applicable only in Jammu and Kashmir. Elsewhere in the country, the equivalent law is the National Security Act (NSA).
  • The PSA has two sections – 'public order' and 'threat to security of the state'. The former allows detention without trial for three to six months and the latter for two years.
  • After the then Union home minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed enforced the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state in 1990, the PSA was used rampantly for picking up people in the then state of J&K.
  • The Act was amended in 2012 and some of its stricter provisions were relaxed. After the amendment, period up to which a first-time offender or individual can be put in detention without trial was reduced from two years to six months. However, a provision has been kept in the Act to extend the detention, if necessary, to up to two years, officials told PTI.

Why Is the Move Significant?

Abdullah, a three-term chief minister and five-time parliamentarian, is the first chief minister against whom the PSA – a law enacted by his father – has been invoked. He has a heart pacemaker implanted and had undergone a kidney transplant a few years ago.

Abdullah’s Gupkar road residence was reportedly declared a jail through a government order, and his arrest was effected hours before the Supreme Court was due to hear a petition by Rajya Sabha MP and MDMK leader Vaiko claiming that Abdullah has been illegally detained.

The National Conference chairman has been arrested under the 'public order' of the PSA, which empowers authorities to detain him for six months without trial.

The 81-year-old had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his son Omar Abdullah last month, days before the erstwhile state's special status was withdrawn.

Abdullah’s detention was to ensure that he did not participate in any rally being organised by Rajya Sabha MP and MDMK leader Vaiko in view of forthcoming United Nations General Assembly, some leaders of his party National Conference told news agency PTI, requesting anonymity.

What Next?

After invoking of the PSA, the government has to constitute an official screening committee which confirms the action, subject to periodic review. The aggrieved party can represent their case in the high court for quashing of the PSA.

Sheikh Abdullah's grandson, Omar Abdullah, who has also served the erstwhile state as a chief minister, had promised during the Lok Sabha elections that if his government comes to power, it would press for abolition of the PSA.

The Case in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to respond to a plea which has sought that Farooq Abdullah be produced before the court.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde and SA Nazeer issued notice to the Centre and the J&K administration and asked them to file their replies by 30 September on the plea by MDMK leader Vaiko.

"Is he (Abdullah) under detention?," the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for Jammu and Kashmir.

Vaiko's counsel told the apex court that there were conflicting claims about Abdullah's status and he has been illegally detained by the authorities, which was an attack on his fundamental rights under the Constitution.

In his plea, Vaiko, who said that he has been a close friend of Abdullah for the past four decades, has contended that constitutional rights conferred on the National Conference leader had been deprived of on account of "illegal detention without any authority of law".

(With inputs from PTI)

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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