Srinagar: Holding in the same hand the Holy Quran and George Orwell’s ‘1984’, Assistant Editor of Kashmir Narrator Asif Sultan was brought by police before the court of 1st Additional Munsiff Srinagar on Saturday. The judge sent the journalist to judicial remand up to October 1, along with three other persons who according to police are involved in “harbouring known terrorists”.
Sultan came to court wearing a T-shirt that read, Journalism is not crime, and holding in his left hand the Holy Quran and Orwell’s famous novel, which details organised state surveillance and repression of dissent. His right hand was handcuffed, in violation of Supreme Court directives.
The Supreme Court, in case of Prem Shankar Shukla vs Delhi Administration (1980), had held that handcuffs were inhumane, unreasonable, and arbitrary. The court recognized the need to secure the prisoner from fleeing but asserted that this does not compulsorily require handcuffing.
Justice VR Krishna Iyer in Shukla’s case had held that the minimal freedom of movement which even a detainee is entitled to under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution cannot be cut down by application of handcuffs.
That same year, in the case of Sunil Batra vs Delhi Administration II (1980), the SC reiterated that “handcuffs and irons bespeak a barbarity hostile to our goal of human dignity and social justice.”
Despite these directions, the procedure is not followed in courts, where most of the detainees are brought handcuffed.
Sultan looked emotional as he held his six-month-old daughter at the court premises today and was seen playing with the toddler.
According to police, Asif Sultan, resident of Firdousabad Batamaloo, was arrested by Police Station Batamaloo on August 31 in case FIR No 173/2018. His family and the Editor of Kashmir Narrator magazine have refuted the police claim by stating that Asif was arrested five days prior before an FIR was registered against him. As per his family, Sultan was picked up by police from his home on August 27 and the police also seized his laptop, cell phones and other documents.
Decrying the “illegal detention” of Sultan, the Kashmir Working Journalist Association, the Kashmir Journalist Association, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Indian Journalist Union (IJU), and the Kashmir Editors’ Guild (KEG) have all called for his immediate release.