Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, currently a member of the Lok Sabha, has been detained under the Public Safety Act. The PSA allows detention for up to two years without a trial.
The decision to slap the PSA on the NC leader came Sunday night, on the eve of the hearing of MDMK leader Vaiko’s habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court, where the absence of any papers justifying the arrest would have been a major embarrassment for the Centre.
The PSA was first promulgated in 1978, under the Sheikh Abdullah government in the Jammu and Kashmir. In its original form, it allowed for detention without trial for up to two years, and was supposedly meant to target timber smugglers. Over the years, multiple reports have talked about how the draconian law is being misused, and young men in the Valley are being charged under it indiscriminately.
In 2010, the Act was amended and some of its provisions made somewhat less strict. For “first-time offenders”, the length of detention was limited to six months. However, detention can still be extended to two years “if there is no improvement in the conduct of the detainee”.
Though Farooq Abdullah has been under house arrest since August 5, Union home minister Amit Shah had claimed in parliament on August 6 that the NC leader was missing the session of his own volition. “I’m saying this for the fourth time, and I have the patience to say it for the 10th time, Farooq Abdullah has neither been detained, nor arrested,” Shah had said. Abdullah had then accused the home minister of lying to the House.
Shah’s claim was also rebutted by none other than the Jammu and Kashmir high court, albeit indirectly, when it allowed two NC leaders to visit Abdullah in his home.