Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah detained under Public Safety Act: all you need to know about the 1978 Act

  • On Monday, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA)

  • Ironically, Abdullah's father, Sheikh Abdullah, had enacted this act that allowed the central government to detain a person for two years without trial if they are perceived to be a threat to public safety

  • This Act was first announced in Jammu and Kashmir in 1978 for administrative detention of up to two years without a trial 'in the case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State'

On Monday, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). Abdulla had been kept under house arrest since the abrogation of Article 370 in the Valley on 5 August.

“His house has been declared as subsidiary jail. He will continue to stay in his house though. There is no bar on him meeting relatives and friends who visit him,” a Kashmir administration source told Indian.

A senior government official told The Hindu that Abdullah will be detained initially for 12 days but the period could be extended for a maximum of three months.

 Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah detained under Public Safety Act: all you need to know about the 1978 Act

File image of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah. Reuters

The Supreme Court on Monday had directed the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to respond to a plea which has sought that former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, under detention following the abrogation of the state's special status under Article 370, be produced before the court.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde and SA Nazeer issued a notice to the Centre and the state administration and asked them to file their replies by 30 September on the plea filed by Rajya Sabha MP and MDMK leader Vaiko.

Ironically, Abdullah's father, Sheikh Abdullah, had enacted this act that allowed the Central government to detain a person for two years without trial if they are perceived to be a threat to public safety.

This is not the first time someone is detained under this Act, just last month, former civil servant-turned-politician, Shah Faesal, was detained at Delhi airport while leaving for abroad. The former bureaucrat was reportedly sent back to Kashmir and placed under house arrest. Faesal was again detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA) on his arrival in Srinagar.

What is the Public Safety Act?

This Act was first announced in Jammu and Kashmir in 1978 for administrative detention of up to two years without a trial “in the case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State”, and for administrative detention of up to one year where “any person is acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”. It was initially aimed at containing timber smugglers in the Valley.

Deputy magistrate or commissioner

The detention order under the PSA is issued by the district magistrate or deputy commissioner. The police then prepare a report, detailing why a person should be detained under this Act and submit it to the deputy commissioner. It is up to the discretion of the deputy commissioner to either accept or reject the recommendations. But in most cases, the district magistrates passes the detention orders without questioning the police.

Advisory board

All detention orders and representations made by the detained person(s) must be placed before an advisory board within four weeks from the date of the detention order. This advisory board is a government-appointed three-member body, which is composed of high court judges or individuals qualified to be judges of a high court. The advisory board is responsible for reviewing the detention order, representation by the detained person, and any other information it considers necessary, to determine whether or not there is sufficient cause for the detention of the person

Period of detention

Initially, before the 2011 amendments to the Act, the government could detain any person above the age of 16, without a trial, for two years. But after the amendment, the minimum age required for detention was raised from 16 to 18 years. The new amendments also reduced the maximum detention period from one year to three months — in case of public disorder from two years to six months in cases where the security of the State is involved. However, there is a provision for revision and the detention period can be extended to one year and two years respectively.

A detained person can make a representation to the government within 10 days of his detention. The government can then confirm or modify the order within 21 days of the making of the representation. In case the government rejects the representation, the person can approach the high court within two months.

Arrests made so far under this Act

Though no official statistics have been published, Amnesty International estimates that there have been some 20,000 arrests under the Act since 1978. Through March 2016 to August 2017 — the period of the large-scale uprising sparked off by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani — there were over 1,000 arrests under the PSA.

However, global human rights organisations such as Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Amnesty International have reported that responses by various government authorities to applications filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 suggest that no provisions have so far been framed to lay down procedures for the implementation of the provisions of the PSA. Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti has told the state Assembly in 2018 that 525 people had been detained under the PSA in 2016, and 201 in 2017.

In the aftermath of  Burhan Wani's death in July 2016, hundreds of people in the Valley were detained under PSA. In August 2018, the Act was amended again that allows individuals from outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir to be detained under the PSA as well.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Sep 17, 2019 13:50:07 IST