Srinagar: A single bench headed by Justice Alok Aradhe of Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed on Friday the 35th PSA detention order under which Masarat Alam Bhat, chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Muslim League and also general secretary of the Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference, remains in jail.
First arrested in June 1990, Masarat has spent more than 18 years in jails across J&K and India.
The 35th order of detention under Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) 1978 was dated 8-05-2017.
Counsel for Masarat Alam, Advocate Mian Abdul Qayoom, submitted before the court that the detention order was invalid because the detainee had not been apprised he could make a representation to the detaining authority.
Advocate Mian Qayoom also submitted that there were no new facts on the basis of which authorities could pass fresh detention orders against Masarat. He further said that the grounds of Masarat’s current detention were based on false allegations, with no names mentioned of the “anti-national elements” whom Masarat had allegedly met, nor the date or month or year in which he allegedly met them.
The 35th detention order had also mentioned that Masarat had influenced some inmates of prisons to take part in anti-national activities.
Advocate Mian Qayoom argued that the names of those inmates were not mentioned in the order. Also, the order of detention was based on stale grounds, about an incident that happened in 2016 for which an FIR no 258/2016 was already lodged.
Justice Alok Aradhe also quashed the second PSA detention order, dated 08-05-2017, against Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Kupwara district head, Ghulam Hassan Malik.
Advocate Nasir Qadri argued that it was the right of the detainee to make a representation, which he was denied, and thus the detention order was not sustainable in the eyes of law.
The Amnesty International has called the PSA a “lawless law”.
A member of Muslim League told Kashmir Reader that at last 64 FIRs are registered against Masarat, who is accused of orchestrating the massive public uprising of 2010 in various districts of J&K.
“After his release in 1991, Masarat was again detained in 1993 and then released in 1996. The following year, he underwent interrogation at several police detention centres,” the League member added.
Masarat, he said, was again arrested in 1999 and was driven to Jodhpur jail in Rajasthan along with Syed Ali Geelani, Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai and others. “They were released in 2000, ahead of US president Bill Clinton’s visit to India,” he said.
He said that since 2006, Masarat Alam was continuously under arrest till May 2008. “He was released in May 2008, following which he led the Ragda protests,” he said. Masarat was again arrested in the same year and next released in early 2010.
“But when protests started following killing of Tufail Mattoo, Masarat started issuing protest calendars and was arrested again on September 9, 2010. Since then he is behind bars, except for a period of 40 days when he was released in 2015 and subsequently arrested on April 9,” the League member said.
The 47-year-old Masarat has been booked under PSA for a total of 35 times. Most of the PSA orders were quashed, revoked, or at times they expired but he continued to be in jail.