The Supreme Court today – Monday, Sep 16 – sought response from the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea seeking to produce before court former chief minister Farooq Abdullah.
Abdullah was last night placed under detention under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). The Home Department has reportedly declared his house as a Subsidiary Jail and there is no bar on meeting of relatives and friends, according to The Indian Express (IE). Last week, the Srinagar Bench of the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir allowed two National Conference MPs to hold separate meetings with Farooq and vice president Omar Abdullah, the IE reported. They have been in detention since August 5 when the Centre revoked J&K’s special status and split the state into two Union Territories.
While Omar has been detained at Hari Niwas, Farooq has been detained at his own house in Srinagar’s Gupkar area.
Hearing the habeas corpus petition filed by Rajya Sabha MP and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko, a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices SA Bobde and SA Nazeer issued notice to the Centre and the state, and fixed Vaiko’s plea for hearing on September 30.
Vaiko, who said he is 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”.
Is Farooq Abdullah under detention, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Mehta told the bench that he will need to get instructions from the J&K administration.
Tushar Mehta had argued against the court issuing notice to the government on the petition, arguing that Vaiko did not have a locus standi in this case. The three-judge bench, also comprising justices SA Bobde and Abdul Nazeer, however, went ahead and told the Centre to respond before September 30 when it will take up the petition again.
In his petition, Vaiko said National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was to participate in the birth anniversary celebrations of late Tamil Nadu chief minister, CN Annadurai, also the founder of the Dravidian movement, on September 15. But he could not be located because of his alleged detention by the government. “Union home minister said Abdullah was not under any kind of detention, but we don’t know his whereabouts,” Vaiko’s counsel said.
Earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah told the Lok Sabha that the former chief minister had not been detained or arrested but was at home “out of his own free will” and that the NC leader was missing the session of his own volition. “I’m saying this for the fourth time, and I have the patience to say it for the 10th time, Farooq Abdullah has neither been detained, nor arrested,” Shah had said.
Abdullah had then accused the home minister of lying to the House, insisting that he had been under house arrest. “Dictatorial authority has been invoked and not a democratic authority that we thought they will invoke. I don’t know how many have been arrested. Nobody is allowed to come in or go out, we are under house arrest,” he said, according to news agency PTI.
Shah’s claim was also rebutted by none other than the Jammu and Kashmir high court, albeit indirectly, when it allowed two NC leaders to visit Abdullah in his home.
The top court is hearing a batch of petitions regarding the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the Centre revoking the special status granted to it under Article 370 of the Constitution.
The court has also given permission to Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to visit Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramullah and Jammu districts to enquire about the well being of his family members.
It will also hear CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury’s plea regarding the detention of party leader Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami. According to a media report, the court allowed Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami to return to Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, reports came that Farooq Abdullah, currently a member of the Lok Sabha, was placed under detention under the stringent Public Safety Act that allows detention for up to two years without a trial.
The decision to slap the PSA on the NC leader came last night (Sunday), just before Vaiko’s habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court came up for hearing this morning.
Recalling that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah in his office before the August 5 bombshell, The Hindu‘s Suhasini Haidar tweeted: “Amazing, when one considers that PM Modi himself met Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah just before they announced #370 restrictions and detentions…..The govt should explain why it considers him a PSA threat now.”
The Opposition has also raised questions.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, another former Chief Minister, strongly condemned the PSA law – usually invoked against terrorists, separatists and stone-throwers in Jammu and Kashmir – being used against Abdullah. This is the first time that the law has been slapped on a mainstream politician, especially an MP.
“Habeas corpus is an instrument in law to protect personal liberty. You are denying that also and then want us to believe that things are normal. Please change the definition of normal. You have the majority,” Manoj Jha, RJD’s Rajya Sabha MP said.
Top politicians and separatist leaders of Kashmir, including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have also been kept under house arrest for over 40 days.