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How long will Mehbooba Mufti be detained? SC asks J&K administration

Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. File   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration to clarify how long they intend to detain former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

“You should address us on two issues: What is the maximum period for which a person can be detained and what is your proposal and how long do you propose to continue the detention,” Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, heading a Bench, addressed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, and listed the case for October 15.

The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Ms. Mufti’s daughter, Iltija, represented by advocates Nitya Ramakrishnan and S. Prasanna.

Magistrate’s affidavit

In an affidavit dated September 28, the Srinagar District Magistrate reasoned that the detention was ordered on the basis of an extensive scrutiny of the material on Ms. Mufti, which showed a “past conduct” of “glorifying militants, brazenly inciting religion to divide the people, demoralising the security forces and the proclivity to indulge in such behaviour in future which would be highly prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”. Her “habituality” in pursuing this conduct, the affidavit said, would render the use of ordinary criminal law “futile”.

Ms. Mufti was detained on August 5 last year amid the scrapping of provisions of Article 370, which accorded special status to the erstwhile State, and bifurcation of the State into Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

On February 5 last, the Srinagar District Magistrate ordered her detention under Section 8 of the PSA “to prevent her from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”. She has been in custody for six months.

Ms. Iltija said the grounds of detention were “vague, stale and have no rational nexus with disturbance to public order. They are based on extraneous material”. She contended that her mother had no access to any form of public speech and expression. There was no reason or material to show that she would act in a manner “prejudicial to maintenance of public order”.

Ms. Iltija contended that the PSA allowed a person to be detained without trial for a year in case he or she was perceived a threat to “public order” and two years if the person acted prejudicially to national security. Her mother had refused to sign “an illegal bond that no statements against the scrapping of Article 370 will be made”.

‘Multiple statements’

But the District Magistrate's affidavit countered that Ms. Mufti had made “multiple statements” in public domain, clearly inciting violence, in the eventuality of any decision being taken regarding Article 370. “Considering the very peculiar geo-political position of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh and its geographical proximity with Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the concept of ‘public order’ needs to be examined contextually”, it noted.

The affidavit referred to judgments, which said the “basis of detention is the satisfaction of the Executive”.

It said Ms. Mufti “was and continues to be detained in conformity with the mandatory provisions of PSA”. She was lodged in the Subsidiary Jail, Transport Yard, Srinagar, before being shifted to Fairview, Gupkar Road, Srinagar.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 6:45:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/mehbooba-mufti-detention-sc-asks-jk-administration-to-respond-to-plea/article32722012.ece

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