The Jammu and Kashmir administration has informed the high court that none of the 16 National Conference leaders, for whom the party’s president Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah had filed a bunch of habeas corpus petitions seeking their release, had been detained and that they were free to move “with certain precautions” as deemed fit for their security.
Filing responses to the pleas before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, senior additional advocate general Bashir Ahmad Dar said it was “not only surprising but shocking as well” as there was neither any legal proceedings underway nor was being contemplated.
The similarly worded replies, which have been vetted by the Inspector General of Police (Kashmir Range), however, said that in wake of constitutional amendments carried out in August last year, “it was apprehended that inimical elements may disturb the peace” and the leaders “may provoke them to cause aggravation in the disturbance”.
However, no order of detention either under preventive detention law or substantive law was issued against any of the leaders, it said, adding they were free to move with certain precautions “as deemed fit” for their security.
The reply said that the petitioner being a categorised person has been advised not to visit any vulnerable areas without informing the authorities concerned and reasoned that it was to ensure proper security.
The Abdullahs had filed 16 petitions on July 13 for 16 NC leaders contending that they were being held in “brazen violation” of constitutional guarantees of right to liberty.
The writ petitions filed under Article 226 of the Constitution lists NC general secretary Ali Mohammed Sagar, provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani, senior leader Aga Syed Mehmood, party’s chief spokesman Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, among the leaders being detained at their residences illegally and wrongfully without serving them grounds of detention.
The leaders have been forcibly restricted by police personnel stationed outside their residences for the past 11 months.
Other leaders for whose release the petitions have been filed were Abdul Rahim Rather, Mohammad Khalil Bandh, Irfan Shah and Sahmeema Firdous, Mohammad Shafi Uri, Chaudhary Mohammad Ramzaan, Mubarak Gul, Dr Bashir Veeri, Abdul Majeed Larmi, Basharat Bukhari, Saifudin Bhat Shutru and Mohammad Shafi.
The senior Abdullah has filed the habeas corpus petitions for seven leaders while his son has filed for the remaining nine.
The Abdullahs, who were first taken into preventive custody on August 4 night last year and then detained under the stringent Public Safety Act for several months, have pleaded that the detainees be set at liberty.
The Abdullahs were detained hours before the Centre’s nullified Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and split the state into two Union Territories.
The reply of the home department said the petitioners being protected persons were well within the charter of duties of the administration to ensure their safety and security.
“In view of the strong inputs regarding overall security atmosphere prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir and also designs of enemy country to destabilise the security situation and law and order, an advisory thereof was also issued by the security headquarters advising all the protected persons to take precautions and not to venture out un-necessarily,” it said.
“…it is emphatically denied that currently or in the past any detention order is in the force against” the leaders and the administration was functioning “strictly within the parameters of law”, it said.
There is no infringement or brazen violation of the law as claimed in the petition.
“The respondents have shown utmost respect of the law of the land,” it said and pleaded for dismissal of the petition with costs.
The party leadership moved the high court after the petitions of these detained leaders to the Home Secretary of Union Territory on June 30 seeking removal of restriction on their movement and set them at “absolute liberty” remained unanswered.
The party, before moving the high court, had expressed hope that the legal system will come to the rescue of the leaders, who have been suffering for no fault ever since the abrogation of provisions of Article 370, Article 35 A on August 5 2019.