Rights group says PSA against Masarat ‘continued violation of rule of law’

Srinagar: A human rights group on Thursday condemned the slapping of 36th Public Safety Act (PSA) against Hurriyat Conference (G) secretary general (III), Masarat Alam.
“The revolving-door-detention, where a person is booked under new detention order illegally irrespective of the earlier order being quashed by the High Court is a feature of Jammu and Kashmir,” observed Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR).
The Kupwara district administration on November 15 slapped PSA on Masarat Alam, who is also chairman of J&K Muslim League, after digging out 18-year-old case against him.
“Cases such as these also bring out the fact about the violation of law and contempt of Supreme Court orders by authorities is a cottage industry in armed conflict area like J&K. State governments have repeatedly held that Public Security Act (PSA) is a must for running the affairs of the state; i.e. without this coercive stick, governance is not possible in J&K. This new Preventive Detention (PD) order under PSA, violates judgments of the Supreme Court which have frowned on repeated and recurrent use of preventive detention and also ruled that without any fresh facts no new detention order can be passed,” the PUDR statement said.
On October 26th the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had quashed the 35th order of detention issued against Masarat Alam.
The PUDR sought immediate quashing of PSA against Masarat Alam and “holding J&K Police liable for contempt of court” while it sought repealing of Public Security Act (PSA).
Instead of setting him free, the police released and then re-arrested him claiming he was wanted in a case registered in 2015 in Kupwara and as a result was taken to Handwara. On November 15th while being under the detention, he was served his 36th detention order and taken to Jammu and lodge din Kotbalwal jail.
Since armed rebellion began in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989-90, Masarat has spent more than 20 years in preventive detention.
He was first detained under Public Security Act (1978) of Jammu and Kashmir on October 2, 1990.
The PSA allows for arrest and imprisonment of a person without trial for 6 months, renewable for up to two years on mere suspicion that he/she maybe acting “in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order” [Section 8(3)(b), or for activities “in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state” (S 8 (1)(a). Since PD is an administrative measure, it requires no proof of criminal offence or even pretense of due process, the PUDR statement explained.
“The important thing to note about Masarat Alam is that there are 49 FIRs against him and in 29 of them he is accused of ‘waging war against the State’. However, in 35 cases he was given bail and in 6 cases he was acquitted of all charges. Lacking evidence to convict him the authorities have chosen to employ PD to keep him in perpetual custody. Needless to say that in the cases filed against him, his detention under PSA and incarceration far removed from trial courts in Kashmir means that his right to speedy and fair trial is jeopardized,” the rights group explained. “It is possible to perpetuate injustice under the system of ‘open FIRs’ registered by J&K police against unnamed suspects participating in a crowd.”
The “dastardly” nature of J&K’s Preventive Detention Act is brought out by the fact that it “overturns due process and infringes the constitutional rights governing the criminal justice system”, the statement said.