Omar’s sister challenges PSA charge against him in SC

Omar’s sister challenges PSA charge against him in SC

The writ petition challenges the government’s order, saying that it conflates ‘governmental policy’ with the ‘Indian State’.

Sara Abdullah Pilot, sister of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, has approached the Supreme Court against the government’s move to charge him under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

Ms. Pilot urged for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus to the authorities to forthwith produce Mr. Abdullah before the Court and set him at liberty.

The petition, represented by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Gopal Sankaranarayanan, was mentioned before a Bench led by Justice N.V.Ramana on Monday

The Bench said it would consider their plea for early listing of the case.

Ms. Pilot said she was gravely concerned about the welfare, safety and security of her brother. He was already under detention from August 5 last — the day the Centre removed the special rights of the Kashmiri people under Article 370 — when the PSA was slapped on him on February 5, 2020.

Ms. Pilot said she was shocked to learn that, just like what happened to their father, the government, had imposed a fresh lease of detention under the PSA on her brother too.

The petition explained that Mr. Abdullah’s detention from August 5 under Section 107 CrPC (security for keeping the peace) was scheduled to end on February 5, 2020. His release was imminent. He had served the maximum period of detention.

On February 5, the Executive Magistrate, instead of releasing him, ordered his further detention under Section 8 of the Public Safety Act of 1978 in an “arbitrary exercise of power”.

Ms. Pilot asked what was the point of detaining a man already detained through the long months of lockdown suffered across J&K. 

In fact, she said, during the past six months there had been no effort by the authorities to verify the truth behind the “information” that Mr. Abdullah was a threat to peace. On the other hand, there were reams of material in the form of tweets and public statements vouching for his exemplary conduct to maintain peace.

Ms. Pilot said there was danger to her brother’s life and liberty.

Threat to public safety: govt

The government, in its PSA dossier against Mr. Abdullah, described him as a threat to public safety. It said he was “planning activities against the Union government”. It also highlighted “his popularity and potential to draw voters to polling booths”.

The writ petition argued that the detention order was illegal as it conflated ‘governmental policy’ with the ‘Indian State’, suggesting that any opposition to the former constituted a threat to the latter.

“This is wholly antithetical to a democratic polity and undermines the Indian Constitution”, it added.

Both the dossier and detention order contained “patently false and ridiculous material, essentially accusing the detenu of becoming a popular figure among general masses”. The grounds of detention were at best “illusory, vague and irrelevant”, Ms. Pilot contended.

The petition argued that if a petition’s personal liberty had been taken away, there would be no fresh material or grounds for his further detention. Hence, the new detention order under the PSA was simply motivated by malice.

The petition narrated how at one point of time during his over six-month long detention, Mr. Abdullah had refused the government’s overture to set him free in exchange for an undertaking that he would not participate in public assemblies in connection with the de-operationalisation of Article 370.

Two other former chief ministers of J&K, Omar Abdullah’s fatheDr. Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti remain detained under the PSA along with other leaders. Mr.Omar Abdullah had been a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1998-2009 and subsequently a member of the J&K Legislative Assembly, the petition said. He had been a Minister at the Centre twice, as the Minister of State (MoS) for Commerce and MoS for the Ministry of External Affairs.

“It is rare that those who have served the nation as members of Parliament and have always stood by the national aspirations of India, are now perceived as a threat to the State,” the petition said.

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