SC issues notice to J&K administration on plea by Omar’s sister for his release

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Srinagar

Whether Omar Abdullah’s detention under the stringent Public Security Act (PSA) is valid will be examined by the Supreme Court, which issued a notice today to the Jammu and Kashmir administration. The Supreme Court said it would take up the case again on March 2, rejecting senior lawyer Kapil Sibal’s request to hear it earlier, reported NDTV.

Omar Abdullah’s sister Sara Abdullah had petitioned the Supreme Court against his detention and had asked that he be produced in court and freed immediately.

“We were hoping that the release would be sooner…,” NDTV quoted Sara Abdullah as saying.

“We have full faith in the justice system. We are here in hope that the people of Kashmir have the same rights as the rest of India. We are waiting for that day,” she added.

Earlier this month, the former chief minister — in detention since August 5 when the government ended special status to Jammu and Kashmir — was charged under the stringent law that allows detention without trial for up to three months, and this can be extended. Abdullah’s father Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, also former chief ministers, have been detained under the same law.

Kapil Sibal requested the court to move the hearing sooner than March 2, pleading: “It is a matter of liberty and can’t wait.”

The Supreme Court, commenting that Abdullah’s sister had waited for one year, said: “You waited a long time.”

Sibal then pointed out that this was the second detention order that was being challenged. The court, however, remained firm on the next date.

Sara Abdullah says in her petition that her brother’s arrest is a grave violation of his constitutional rights and part of a “consistent and concerted effort to muzzle all political rivals”.

Similar orders of detention had been issued over the last seven months “in a wholly mechanical manner” to others, she argues.

“The order conflates ‘Governmental policy’ with the ‘Indian State’, suggesting that any opposition to the former constitutes a threat to the latter. This is wholly antithetical to a democratic polity and undermines the Indian Constitution,” the petition says.

“…a reference to all the public statements and messages posted by Omar Abdullah during the period up to his first detention would reveal that he kept calling for peace and co-operation – messages which in Gandhi’s India cannot remotely affect public order.”

Abdullah was not even served with the material that formed the basis of detention, she says.

Details of the charges listed out in a dossier against the 49-year-old National Conference leader have drawn criticism. His sister’s petition says the dossier contains “patently false and ridiculous material”, essentially accusing him of becoming a popular figure among general masses and possessing considerable influence over people.

The dossier lists his “ability to garner votes even during peak militancy and poll boycotts”. It says Mr Abdullah, a former Union Minister, can influence people for any cause and specifically cites his ability to bring voters out despite boycott calls by separatists. “The capacity of the subject to influence people for any cause can be gauged from the fact that he was able to convince his electorate to come out and vote in huge numbers even during peak of militancy and poll boycotts,” it says.

Other charges include Omar Abdullah’s opposition to the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 and “instigating people on Twitter against the unity and integrity of the Nation”. No twitter posts have been cited to back up this allegation.

The dossier says he is a “popular figure among masses and has tremendous potential for diverting energy of common people for any cause”.

Abdullah’s sister says in her petition that he had been accused of “favouring radical thoughts” and “planning and projecting his activities against the Union of India under the guise of politic” while enjoying the support of gullible masses. “These averments fly in the face of his tweets shortly before/ around the time of his detention, in which he cautioned people against resorting to violence and taking law into their hands,” she argues.

These were Mr Abdullah’s tweets on August 5.

On February 5, the government used the Public Safety Act against him and another former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, reported NDTV.

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