SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir government has been booking people under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) for the past forty years without any rules and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), an RTI has revealed.
The J&K Home department replied to a query filed under Right To Information (RTI) that it has not framed any rules and SOPs under the PSA.
“No rules have been framed so far,” reads the Home department’s response, which adds, “SOPs not framed.”
Adeela Shah and Naveed Bukhtiyar had filed the RTI query under the supervision of Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, Chairman RTI Movement, and Venkatesh Nayak, Programme Coordinator for Access to Information Programme Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. They had asked the Home department, among other questions, for the latest version of rules and SOPs under PSA.
The Home department and District Magistrates, which are the key authorities to approve a PSA order and issue it, had from March 2016 to August 2017 detained more than 1,000 people under PSA, the Home department said in reply to the RTI.
The Home department refused to reveal the identities of the persons detained under PSA. It cited a section of the RTI Act that gives them discretion to not disclose the information.
The activists had also asked about procedures for ascertaining the age of a person being detained under PSA, in case he or she is a minor. The Home department said that “there is no specific procedure for ascertaining the age of the detenue. However, date of birth issued by the competent authority is relied upon.”
Individual RTIs filed before District Magistrates fetched responses that contradicted the Home department’s statements. A reply from DM Anantnag stated that “The J&KPSA is a rule book consisting upon (sic) 711 pages and is in binding shape. It is not possible to Photostat the book. The Book is available at Govt. Press, Srinagar.”
Regarding the SOPs issued under J&KPSA, the DM Anantnag said: “The Standard Procedures (SOPs) is a rule book consisting upon (sic) hundreds of pages. It is not possible to photostat the same. The book is available at Govt. Press, Srinagar.”
The Public Information Officer (PIO) of DM Kishtwar said that PSA Act is itself the Rules. The PIO of DM Srinagar said that the Home Department should be approached for knowing about Rules and SOPs of the Public Safety Act.