SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has invalidated the detention of journalist Sajad Gul under the Public Safety Act, asserting that there was no specific accusation demonstrating that his activities posed a threat to the state’s security, Scroll reported.
The Public Safety Act permits authorities to detain individuals without trial for up to two years on national security grounds and up to a year for the maintenance of public order.
Gul had been detained on January 16 the previous year under preventive detention, just a day after being granted bail in a criminal conspiracy case.
In an order passed on November 9, as per The Scroll Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice MA Chowdhary said that the detention order was based on “vague grounds” and directed the release of the Kashmiri journalist.
The court criticised the detaining authority for not applying its mind before passing the order, emphasising that the authority failed to establish the subjective satisfaction required for preventive detention, which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The judges highlighted that Gul was not provided with the three first information reports registered against him, copies of the dossier, statements of witnesses, and other relevant documents, depriving him of the ability to make an effective representation against his detention.
The detention grounds, as per the court, did not specify that Gul had ever disseminated any false information. The order emphasised, “It is nowhere stated as to how the detenu had disrupted the public order,” and noted a lack of specifics regarding the alleged creation of enmity and acrimony against the government machinery through the journalist’s news items.
Regarding the police dossier, it asserted that Gul’s social media influence was the focal point of action rather than his news reports. The dossier claimed that, being “well-educated,” Gul could use social media to incite people against the government and, as a journalist, he “promoted enmity” rather than reporting on the welfare of Jammu and Kashmir.
Gul’s initial arrest on January 6 was related to a video he posted on Twitter showing family members of Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Salim Parray protesting against his death. The video, posted on January 3, depicted women shouting anti-government slogans during the protests.
The arrest garnered widespread condemnation, with various journalist bodies demanding his release and expressing concern about the broader crackdown on journalists in Kashmir.
In February 2021, Gul faced charges of “rioting, trespassing, and assault” for an article he wrote for The Kashmir Walla, detailing alleged harassment and threats by Tehsildar Hajin Ghulam Mohammad Bhat.
In October of the same year, he was summoned for questioning in connection with a news report and a video posted on Twitter, both reporting the family members’ claims regarding a man killed in a gunfight, alleging a “fake encounter” with the police.