‘How long do you propose to continue?’ Supreme Court asks Jammu and Kashmir administration on Iltija Mufti’s plea challenging her mother’s detention

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the central government whether it proposes to continue the preventive detention of former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti. A bench headed by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked the Centre to inform the top court about its proposal with regard to Mufti. “You should address us on two issues ; One, what is the maximum period for which a person can be detained and two, what is your proposal and how long do you propose to continue the detention,” justice Kaul told Centre’s second senior-most law officer, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Mufti’s daughter, Iltija challenging her mother’s detention under Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). Mufti has been under detention since August 5, 2019, when the Centre nullified Article 370 and placed the Kashmir valley in a state of lockdown. Her detention in 2019 was under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which empowers an executive magistrate to order a person to execute bonds “for keeping the peace”. She had been in custody for six months and her detention was set to expire in February 2020 when a new detention order was issued on February 5 under the PSA which allows the administration to detain a person without trial for a maximum period of 1 year in case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order and for two years in case of persons acting prejudicially to the security of the country. Iltija alleged that the continued detention was because of the refusal by Mufti to sign a general bond affirming that in case of release, she will not make any comment, deliver any speech or attend any public assembly related to the recent events in Jammu and Kashmir. The case had first come up for hearing on February 26 when the top court had issued notice to the Centre and union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. When the case came up for hearing today, Tushar Mehta told the court that Mufti has been detained on the ground that her conduct could lead to public order issues. He also informed the court that the Centre has filed a counter affidavit in the matter. The court adjourned the matter for October 15 after Iltija sought permission to file an amended petition. The Centre was given liberty to file its response to the amended plea. Iltija has submitted that the detention of Mufti is a based upon dossier prepared by the Superintendent of Police, Srinagar which itself was replete personal remarks against Mufti and in bad taste. The dossier, she alleged, was abound with vulgar descriptions about Mufti like “Daddy’s girl” and “Kota Rani”, the latter a medieval queen who rose to power through scheming and poisoning of opponents. It contained unwarranted remarks about the marital status of Mufti and described her as “hard headed” and possessing a “scheming mind”.