252 habeas corpus pleas in J&K HC since Aug 5: Report

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 9/21/2019 3:47:48 PM

Another report suggests sluggish pace of progress in many petitions

JAMMU, Sep 20: Since August 5, a staggering 250 habeas corpus petitions have been filed in the Valley by individuals challenging their detention by the government under the draconian Public Safety Act, according to a report in a national daily.
This crucial information has been kept under wraps when the top court was hearing a clutch of petitions on the situation in the Valley, said the Indian Express report which gave a detailed account of the habeas corpus petitions filed in the last one month.
According to the report, 252 habeas corpus petitions have been moved before the Srinagar wing of Jammu and Kashmir High Court challenging the prevention detention orders passed by District Magistrates under the PSA.
The report stated that a scrutiny of these cases revealed that little urgency has been shown by the High Court. “Each case is either in the stage of admission or has been listed for orders: 147 petitions are in the stage of admission and 85 are listed for orders. In 20 cases, the stage of case, is still unknown,” it elaborated.
The first petition was filed on August 5 by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association under Section 491 of the CrPC which deals with the power of the High Court to issue directions of the nature of habeas corpus. However, the stage of the case is unknown. The second petition was filed on August 20. All petitions filed since August 20 challenged detention under the PSA. The maximum petitions (24) filed on a single day was September 3.
The report stated that it was not clear in how many cases have notices been issued to the government, in how many has the government responded.
However, in 11 cases where orders passed by the Single Bench of the High Court have been uploaded online, what’s clear is that there seems no tearing hurry, the report said. It cited one petition that was filed on August 23 which was last listed “for orders” on September 16, 2019. In this case, on September 16, the order noted that the Additional Advocate General has sought four more weeks to file a counter affidavit and the same was granted by the court and the court will now hear the matter October 9.
In another case that’s pending admission, the court took up the petition filed on September 7 on September 13. It issued notices to the government and gave it four weeks. The court listed the matter for October 14 as the next date of hearing, according to the report.
The report said that 147 petitions 147 challenged the detention and Section 22 of the PSA. Section 22 states that “No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall be against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this Act. Out of these 147 petitions, 53 have been listed for orders and 90 are still in admission stage.
The report further states that 83 petitions have moved before the High Court and have challenged section 8 of the Act. The section states that “the Government may if satisfied with respect to any person that with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state or the maintenance of public order.” Out of these 83 petitions, 18 have listed for orders and 53 are still in the stage of admission.
Sixteen petitions have challenged the detention under Section 13 of the Act that states that grounds of order of detention need to be disclosed to persons affected by the order. “When a person is detained in pursuance of a detention order, the authority making the order shall, as soon as may be, ( but ordinarily not later than five days and in exception circumstances and for reasons to be recorded in writing, not later than ten days from the date of detention) communicate to him grounds on which the order has been made, and shall afford him the earliest opportunity of making a representation against the order to the Government,” Section 13 states.
According to another report in scroll.in, hundreds have been held under the Public Safety Act, a stringent preventive detention law and that many booked under the law have reportedly been sent to jails outside the Valley.
The scroll report said that the lawyers have been in short supply. Among the first arrests was Mian Abdul Qayoom, president of the Bar Association of Kashmir, now being held in a prison in Agra, and Nazir Ahmad Ronga, former president of the High Court bar, who was taken to Moradabad prison.
Since then, the police have booked Fayad Sodagar, president of Anantnag District Bar Association, and Abdul Salam Rather, president of the Baramulla District Bar Association, under the Public Safety Act. Lawyers based in Srinagar said Sodagar was on the run and Rather was imprisoned in Uttar Pradesh.
At the Shopian district court, lawyers said the police have detained advocate Zubair Ahmad Bhat, and his father, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, a senior advocate and a member of the legislative assembly from the People’s Democratic Party.
Lawyers were “requested to abstain from work as a mark of protest”, said the notices at the high court in Srinagar. Apart from objecting to the arrest of their colleagues, it was felt, lawyers had to support the larger civil shutdown to protest against the August 5 announcements.
While most of the 1,050-member Kashmir Bar Association went on strike, only seven lawyers were designated to help the families of those detained. Their job mainly consists of filing habeas corpus petitions in the Srinagar bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the report said.
“The number of orders and cases being heard has drastically gone down,” said a member of the high court bar association who has been fighting cases at the high court in Srinagar since 2014. “Earlier, it would be routine for 2,000-3,000 orders to be issued in the high court in one month. Now, the government is going around arresting people, little other work is on, so only habeas corpus petitions are being filed.”
In the present situation, according to scroll, for the relatives of many of those detained, reaching the court is an ordeal. It cited several instances. Latif Dar, for instance, wanted to consult Hajeeb about his 25-year-old brother-in-law, Shahnawaz Ahmed Dar. On the night of August 20, Shahnawaz Dar, a daily wage worker, had been detained by the security forces and then booked under the Public Safety Act. According to Latif Dar, his brother-in-law was picked up after he was found in a group watching a vehicle that had been set on fire. “There have no proof of any offence,” he said.
Latif Dar said he was among the few from his village who had been able to reach the court at all. That was because he worked in a bank and owned a car. On the way, he said, he had to go past numerous security checkpoints. Besides, the civil curfew to protest against the August 5 announcements had kept public transport off the streets. “Not everyone can afford to hire a private vehicle,” he said. “It is difficult to come this far right now when the situation is so terrifying.”
For weeks, the high court building itself was circled by concertina wiring and blanketed by heavy security. On September 11 and 12, the high court building wore a deserted look and its corridors were empty even in the middle of the afternoon.
The report added that interviews with the families of those detained suggest many are not able to file petitions. In a large number of cases, there is no first information report or any kind of paperwork to show for the detention.
According to the report, Dilbag Singh, director general of police of Jammu and Kashmir, said that they had detained about 3,000 persons as a preventive measure but many of them had been let off after their families and neighbours signed “community bonds” pledging the detainees would stay away from protests. The police had not registered offences, he said, out of concern for the boys’ careers, which would be marred if they had a criminal record.
But Abdul Wari, who is from the South Kashmir district of Anantnag, said the lack of records only cut off access to legal recourse. Some of the families who had approached him in Anantnag, for instance, said they did not have detention orders or FIRs. This made it harder for advocates to file pleas for habeas corpus or bail, Wari told scroll.
Wari recounted the case of a police constable from who wanted legal help for her husband, detained in Kupwara in North Kashmir, on August 6. “First, she was not allowed to meet him in Srinagar central jail and then the next day, she was told he had been taken to Lucknow and is now being held there,” Wari said. “Despite filing multiple applications, we are unable to get any detention orders from the Kupwara district office.”
Several families in Bandipora and Shopian also said their children had been locked up in police stations for 30 to 40 days but since they could not get FIRs, they could not pursue legal means to get them released.
The report said that even the most mundane court processes, such as serving legal notices, have been hampered. An order posted on the high court website, dated September 16, says a show cause notice from July 24 could not reach the relevant parties because of traffic restrictions.
Without the notice being delivered to the respondents, in view of non-functionality of post offices, in a habeas corpus case this would be the Jammu and Kashmir police as well as jail authorities in the Valley as well as outside it – the case cannot proceed and the prisoner continues to languish in jail.

 

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