Srinagar: The state government told J&K High Court on Wednesday that the Kashmir High Court Bar Association’s (KHCBA) PIL related to shifting of PSA detenues to jails outside the state was not maintainable, as it is against PIL rules and guidelines issued by the Supreme Court of India.
“That the petitioner association has no cause of action to be agitated as none of their rights, legal, constitutional or others have been violated by virtue of the Amendment in Public Safety Act, 1978, and therefore being violative of PIL rules and as per Supreme Court guidelines, the petition challenging the Amendment be dismissed,” the J&K Government told High Court.
The government’s response, submitted by Deputy Secretary to Home Department, stated that keeping in view security concerns and law & order problems in the state, “it was considered desirable that certain hardcore terrorists and over ground workers (OGWs) are required to be shifted to outside jails as necessitated by circumstances from time to time, including indoctrination and threat to the lives of detenues at the hands of hardcore terrorists who are detained under Public Safety Act, 1978. To segregate these hardcore persons from the other prisoners, it was felt necessary to undertake the required amendment in the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978, by deleting provision to Section 10 of the said Act.”
Citing the escape of top militant Naveed Jatt in February 2018, the government stated that when Naveed Jatt escaped from police custody, two police personnel accompanying him lost their lives.
In November last year, about 40 PSA detenues were shifted from Kathua and Kotbalwal Jail in Jammu to Haryana jails of Jhajjar and Karnal. Their families alleged that the government without informing them shifted the detenues to outside jails and also that the families were denied meetings with the detenues.
The government’s response stated that the families were allowed to meet the detenues.
The response by Deputy Secretary further reads that considering lack of adequate infrastructure and dilapidated conditions in certain jails, these needed to be decongested on high priority. “Presently, there are 17 Jails (2 Central Jails, 13 District Jails and 2 Sub Jails), of which 14 Jails are currently operational. Further, 2 new District Jails at Kargil and Bhaderwah are under construction. The capacity of operational Jails is 2500 (approx), which currently houses over 3000 prisoners, including about 100 foreigners and over 300 militants,” the reply reads.
The report also states that the buildings and security related infrastructure also needs to be significantly upgraded.
After the report was submitted, the High Court directed the petitioner’s counsel, Mian Tufail, to file rejoinder.
Earlier, the Kashmir High Court Bar Association had moved a PIL stating that shifting of Kashmiri detainees to jails located outside the state, by making an amendment in Public Safety Act, was an extra-territorial piece of legislation “which is legally invalid.”
The amendment was also contrary to the Supreme Court’s five-judge bench’s constitutional judgment, the Prisons Act, the Prisoners Act, and the Jail Manual, the lawyers’ body had said.
The lawyers body had expressed serious concern over the clearing of a proposal by the State Administrative Council (SAC) regarding the deletion of the provision which was added to Section 10(b) of the Public Safety Act (PSA) in 2002, providing that detenues who are permanent residents of the state shall not be lodged in jails outside Jammu and Kashmir.