Explained: The Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act

Hours before the Supreme Court was due to hear a habeus corpus petition, Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah was detained under the PSA.

Updated - September 17, 2019 02:09 pm IST

Published - September 17, 2019 02:02 pm IST

Police and CRPF personnel stand guard near the residence of Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar.

Police and CRPF personnel stand guard near the residence of Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar.

Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah was detained under the State’s Public Safety Act on September 16, for 12 days. This was hours before the Supreme Court was due to hear Rajya Sabha Member Vaiko’shabeus corpus petition, seeking the J&K government to produce him in court and release him from detention.

What is the Public Safety Act?

Ironically, the law was introduced by Sheikh Abdullah (Farooq Abdullah’s father) in 1978. But it’s purpose was different. It was brought in to prevent timber smuggling, and keep the smugglers in prison. This is a preventive detention law that allows the State government to detain a person up to two years without a trial.

It is similar to the National Security Act, but this was enacted two years before the NSA came into being.

Even before Dr. Abdullah was detained under the PSA, he claimed to be under house arrest following the abrogation of certain provisions of Article 370, like other politicians in the State .

Earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah had said in Parliament that Dr. Abdullah was in his home of his own free will, which Dr. Abdullah refuted in an interview to news channels.

Why has he been detained under PSA now?

In police custody, a person has to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of detention. But the PSA allows the State to hold a person without producing them in court.

While the J&K government has not given details as to why Dr. Abdullah has been detained under the PSA, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on September 17 hit out at the BJP over the detention and questioned if this action was precipitated by Mr. Vaiko’s habeus corpus plea.

What happens after PSA is used?

Within four weeks of passing the detention order, the government has to refer the case to an Advisory Board. This Advisory Board will have to give its recommendations within eight weeks of the order. If the Board thinks that there is cause for preventive detention, the government can hold the person up to two years.

The person detained has limited rights. Usually when a person is arrested, they have the right to legal representation and can challenge the arrest. But, when a person is arrested under the PSA, they do not have these rights before the Advisory Board unless sufficient grounds can be established that the detention is illegal. There have been cases where the High Court has interfered and quashed the detention.

According to Section 13(2), the detaining authority need not even inform the detained individual as to the reason for the action, if it decides that it goes against public interest.

Has this been used before?

Last month, former IAS officer and founder of Jammu & Kashmir People’s movement Shah Faesal was stopped from flying out of the country from the Delhi Airport and sent back to Srinagar, where he was detained under the PSA. He is still under detention.

In the wake of the Pulwama attack, scores of detainees were slapped with this law, and J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik had approved an amendment to move detainees to jails outside the State.

Hurriyat leaders like Masarat Alam, JKLF leader Yasin Malik have also been detained under this law. Incidentally, in January this year, National Conference vice president and son of Dr. Abdullah, Omar Abdullah had promised to repeal the controversial Act if he came back to power in the State.

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