In 5 yrs 2700 detained under PSA, no law reviewed
Naseer A Ganai
Srinagar, April 23, 2008: Contrary to common minimum programme claims of reviewing all cases of detainees and operation of “draconian” laws, the coalition government has detained over 2700 people under public safety act and has not reviewed any law.
The coalition government after coming to power in 2002 had claimed that Government would review all cases of detainees being held without trial for long periods. The CMP had said that it would release all detainees held on non specific charges, those not charged with serious crimes and those who have been held on charges that are such that the period they have spent in jail exceeds their possible sentence.”
The Government had also assured that it would “review the operation of all such laws that have been used in the past decade to deprive people of their basic rights to life and liberty for long periods of time, without due legal process. Where the Government dreams that some special powers need to be retained, it will ensure, by instituting careful and transparent pre-screening and monitoring procedures, that such powers are used sparingly and those entrusted with them are held accountable for any misuse.”
But the figures suggest otherwise. Sources said alone under the Public Safety Act the government has detained nearly 2700 persons from 2002 to 2006. Sources said till April 23, 2008, 361 cases of public safety act have been instituted in the High Court’s Srinagar wing since January 1, 2008. In 2006, 607 cases of habeas corpus have been instituted in the High Court at Srinagar.
“The government has not released any person. In fact it has detained far higher number of the people under PSA and other laws than what it claims and it has not reviewed any act in past six years,” says former High Court Bar Association president and senior counsel Mian Abdul Qayoom.
He said the detainees were languishing in jails and the government did nothing to release them.” “Instead its agencies rearrested detainees just outside the jails released by the Courts,” he said. He said the people who were booked under TADA were still suffering.” They claim they have not implemented POTA. But what about TADA and what about those charged under it,” he said.
The HCBA president Nazir Ahmad Ronga said whosoever has been released during these years they have been released by the Courts not by the State government. “The government claim that it shall review the cases of detainees being held without trial, is in fact an open admission by the State that it is doing it,” Ronga said. He said in detention matters all the orders passed by the authorities have been quashed by the High Court on merits after hearing advocates appearing on both sides.
Ronga says the government has not reviewed any law. “There is enemy agents ordinance, prevention of sabotages act, pubic safety act and above all armed forces (Jammu and Kashmir) special powers act and none of these draconian laws have been reviewed,” Ronga said. He said even though the operation of AFSPA was illegal in according to Apex Court ruling, 300 cases were pending for prosecution against troops for want of sanction from the government of India.
Noted human rights activist Pervez Imroz has different take on the issue. “There are laws and unwritten laws and what are prevalent in Jammu and Kashmir are unwritten laws,” he said. Elaborating, he said, there was no doubt that AFSPA was draconian law but even under it a arrested person has to be handed over to police. “This practice was never followed here,” he said. He cited detention and release and re-arrest under PSA as classic example of punishment of executive and unwritten law. He says when a Court releases a PSA detainee he is being re-arrested outside the jail or in Court premises by the agencies. Imroz however said it was not question PDP and Congress only. “The National Conference too came up with similar promises and did nothing,” he said. He said even NC rule the detainees booked under PSA were far higher. “Public memory is not so short as perceived by politicians here whether they are from NC or PDP,” he said.