Former advocate general says PSA the ‘easiest way to control situation’
Srinagar: In the past decade, the last two years saw the highest number of detention orders under Public Safety Act (PSA) – above 1100 – being deployed against pro-freedom leaders, activists and protesters in the Valley. On Wednesday, the government announced withdrawal of cases against youths booked for the first time for stone-pelting or participating in protests, there has been no consideration given to freeing prisoners booked under the draconian PSA that Amnesty International describes as a “lawless law”.
According to lawyers who are challenging PSA detentions in courts, the bulk of those arrested in the past two years include political prisoners and pro-freedom protesters. The PSA empowers the government to imprison a person for up to six months without a trial.
According to High Court lawyer Nasir Qadri, the number of people arrested in the past two years is the highest in the past decade.
During the year 2016, he said, 738 PSAs were slapped on political activists and protesters. Of these 738, about 522 persons were booked during the five months following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. His killing triggered mass uprising in the region with government forces killing above 80 civilians while injuring above 15,000. The government booked pro-freedom leaders and protesters under the PSA to prevent mass protests.
“Till 25 November, 2017, 371 persons were detained under PSA,” Qadri said. “If you combine these two years, the number of PSAs slapped against people stands at 1109. It is the highest number of PSAs in more than a decade.”
Among the youngest PSA victims was 14-year-old Sahil Ahmad Sheikh of Srinagar, while among the oldest was 84-year-old Shah Wali Mohammad of Sopore. Lawyers said that the High Court quashed above 257 PSA detentions in 2016, but the government in majority of these cases slapped fresh PSA detention orders on the detainees to avoid their release.
“There is no exact number of people who were repeatedly slapped with the PSAs,” Qadri said. “About 55 people were slapped with PSAs again, whom I represented as counsel. I am fighting the case of Mohammad Shaban who had four PSAs slapped against him and of Assadullah Parray, who was recently booked under a 5th PSA in a row.”
Last month, senior Hurriyat Conference leader Khan Sopori, 70, who was under police detention at Sopore after the J&K High Court quashed his second PSA detention on September 15, was slapped with a third PSA. Sopori was first arrested in February this year under a PSA order that the High Court quashed in June.
Another case of the PSA being rampantly used to keep pro-freedom leaders behind bars is that of senior Hurriyat leader and Muslim League chairman Masarat Alam. So far, he has been booked under PSA 36 times. He remains continuously jailed under PSA since 2010, except for a period of 40 days in 2015.
Former Advocate General and High Court lawyer M Ishaq Qadri explained that the draconian law was being deployed because of the inefficiency of police.
“It is the easiest way to handle the law and order situation,” he told Kashmir Reader. “The police are the most inefficient department in Kashmir. It is easy to imprison people under PSA and put them behind bars. The police can neither produce evidence nor a powerful case against the accused. When you are lethargic and inefficient, you find an easy way to tackle the situation: PSA is one such resort.”
Qadri said that the grounds of detention under PSA are so flimsy that they cannot withstand one court hearing.
“Since 1990, the government and police are booking people under PSA. Nothing has changed. It keeps happening because the grounds of detention are flimsy and a pack of lies.
“The police do not even work to prepare solid grounds for detention. Their lies are contradictory and the accused is released by the court. Hence, the easiest way to control the situation is PSA, as it needs no effort to book a person,” he said.