Omar Abdullah. | File   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

SC seeks J&K govt.’s response to plea against Omar Abdullah’s detention under Public Safety Act

The former Chief Minister’s sister says his life and liberty are at threat


The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to respond to a petition filed by Sara Abdullah Pilot against the detention of her brother and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah under the Public Safety Act.

Also read | J&K govt.'s Public Safety Act dossier describes Omar Abdullah as radical

A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Indira Banerjee then listed the case for hearing next on March 2.

The court refused to heed to fervent pleas made by Ms. Pilot’s lawyer and senior advocate Kapil Sibal to list the case next week.

“No. Next on March 2. It cannot be next week. You have waited for so long to file this petition...” Justice Mishra said categorically.

“He (Omar) was under detention for the past six months... This is someone else, his sister, who has come,” Mr. Sibal replied.

Justice Mishra persisted that if the petition had been filed so late, it could wait for another 15 days (till March 2) for a hearing.

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Mr. Sibal clarified that there had been no delay. This petition challenged his fresh detention under the PSA and not his past six-month confinement under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, he submitted.

“This is the PSA. This is a habeas corpus. Please list the case next week. It is the law... This is a matter of personal liberty,” Mr. Sibal

The court refused to bend. “No, not next week,” Justice Mishra said.

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

Ms. Pilot, also represented by senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, has said she was gravely concerned about the welfare, safety and security of her brother. He was already under detention from August 5 last year — 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.

Also read | Extended folly: On invocation of PSA against Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti

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”.

In fact, she said that during the past six months there had been no effort by authorities to verify the truth behind the “information” that Mr. Abdullah was a threat to peace. In fact, 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 urged there was danger to her brother’s life and liberty.

The petition said the government, in its PSA dossier against charging Mr. Abdullah, had 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”.

It 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 Constitution,” the petition added.