Friday, January 23, 2009

New govt opens PSA account for 2009

‘More than 50,000 arrested under the Act in 20 years’

NASEER A GANAI

Srinagar, Jan 22: The NC-led coalition is yet to complete a fortnight in office. The chief minister Omar Abdullah had promised that political prisoners with “no heinous charges” against them would be released. But the district administration has issued orders sanctioning detention of four prominent pro-freedom leaders who have already spent years in jails.  
 A source in the office of Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, said the DC on Wednesday signed the PSA order against secretary of Coordination Committee and Hurriyat leader Masrat Alam Bhat, and JKLF leaders Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, Muhammad Rafique Pahlo alias Nanaji, and Bilal Sidiqui.   
 Under the PSA a person can be jailed for two years without a trial. 
 Farooq Ahmad Dar was released in 2006 after 17 years of detention.  Sidique was released a year ago after spending 13 years in different Indian jails.  Masarat Alam has been in and out of jails for most part of his active political life.
 The police dossier of one of the four detainees, according to the source, reads: “In order to overcome the menace of terrorism and secessionism a holistic approach is needed wherein besides legal action preventive detention will be a very effective tool against the persons having potential, will, commitment, and urge to challenge the integrity and sovereignty of the State.”
The High Court Bar Association president Mian Abdul Qayoom told Greater Kashmir that Bar would challenge the detention in the Court. 
 On 19 September 2008 Masrat Alam Bhat, Muhammad Saleem Nanaji, Farooq Ahmad Dar were arrested during agitation against the transfer of forest land to Amarnath Shrine Board and booked under the PSA. On 8 January 2008 the High Court quashed their detention. Bilal Sidiqui was arrested after elections. 
 On January 17 Sidqui was allowed by the Court to meet his mother who was admitted in the SMHS hospital. On January 18 he was granted interim bail by the duty magistrate Srinagar. But police didn’t release him and on Thursday he, along with the trio, was shifted to Udhampur jail.   
 Mian Abdul Qayoom says over 50,000 Kashmiris have been booked and detained for different periods under the Act in the past 20 years of freedom struggle. The State government has not furnished any data on the detentions under the PSA. But the Home Department sources put the number to 18000 in 17 years. 
 In the PDP-Congress coalition nearly 2700 persons were detained under PSA from 2002 to 2006. Sources said from 1 January 2008 to 23 April 2008, PSA was slapped on 117 persons. In 2006, 607 cases of habeas corpus have been instituted in the High Court at Srinagar.
 Sources said in 2008, 367 cases of the PSA were challenged in the high court and the Court disposed off 307 cases. For past four months 180 petitions challenging the PSA have been instituted in the High Court.

SOME FACTS ABOUT PSA 
 The law dates back to 70s and its first victim was the president of Kashmir Motor Drivers Association (KMDA), Ghulam Nabi. In 1977 elections Ghulam Nabi contested on Janta Party ticket against Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.  Soon after the elections the government introduced the Public Safety Ordinance, and on 8 April 1978 it became an act after it was passed by the state legislature. Ghulam Nabi was its first victim. But in 1978 Justice M.R.A Ansari was the Chief Justice of the High Court. He heard the case and within a month revoked the order. 
 In 1985 former Chief Minister Ghulam Muhammad Shah made the Act stringent by inserting section 10 (A). 
 Mian Qayoom says earlier the PSA could be challenged in the court if out of ten charges, nine were proved against the accused but one of the charges was vague. 
 “But after insertion of section 10-(A) situation totally changed. Now if one ground proved correct and nine incorrect the detention could not be challenged on its vagueness,” he added. 
 The amendment made courts virtually defunct forcing the Bar to challenge it. The High Court later ruled that any order of detention could be challenged in the Court of law. 
 In 1990, when governor rule was imposed in the state, PSA got another amendment. The then governor Jagmohan inserted section in the act. Now the prisoners could be detained in any jail in India. 
 Bar challenged it in the High Court and High Court revoked the section and questioned its legality. The state went to Supreme Court and the Supreme Court stayed the High Court judgment. Since then the matter is pending for the order.

 

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