Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah was on Monday detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). Not just that, the place where Abdullah senior will be housed has been declared a temporary jail, through an order.
Ironically, the Public Safety Act was introduced by Farooq Abdullah’s father and former Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah in 1978 to target timber smugglers.
While Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti continue to be under house arrest under the Criminal Procedure Code, the Centre has detained Farooq and bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal under the PSA, which allows the detention of any individual for up to two years without a trial. Here’s a brief explainer on the PSA.
What is the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act?
The Public Safety Act (PSA), empowers the government to detain any individual “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”. This law lays down guidelines required to maintain the safety and security of the people and the state.
When can a person be detained under the PSA?
An individual can be detained if he/she is found promoting, propagating or attempting to create, feelings of enmity or hatred on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or region. A person can also be detained if involved in provoking people to disrupt public order.
The authorities must inform a detainee about the grounds on which the order has been made soon after the detention. But the authorities may take not more than 10 days in “exceptional circumstances”. A clause in the act, however, states that the authorities won’t be forced to disclose facts which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose.
What is the maximum period of detention under the PSA?
The minimum period for a detainee is 12 months. However, the Act says if a person is acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state, then the detention period will be for two years.
Can detention be revoked earlier?
Yes. A detention order may be revoked or modified by the government at any time. According to the Act, “Nothing contained in this section shall affect the powers of the government to revoke or modify the detention order at any earlier time, or extend the period of detention of a foreigner in case his expulsion from the state has not been made possible.”
The government can temporarily free a detainee for a specific period with or without conditions. In such cases, the detainee may be required to enter into a bond with or without sureties and will have to surrender himself at the time and place and to the authority agreed at the time of release.
Have detentions under the Act been challenged before?
Yes, they have been. And there have been instances of the J&K High Court overturning the detentions too.