NEW DELHI :
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference chairman Farooq Abdullah, who had been kept under house arrest since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution on 5 September, has on Monday been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Ironically, the draconian Act of 1978, which allows the central government to detain a person for two years without trial, if he or she is perceived to be a threat to public safety, was enacted by the NC chief’s father, Sheikh Abdullah.
Senior politicians of Jammu and Kashmir, including former chief ministers such as NC leader and Farooq Abdullah’s son Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, have been under preventive detention following the Centre’s decision to revoke J&K’s special status.
Abdullah, 81, who has been charged with disturbing public order, has been detained for at least three months and will be restricted within his own house, one person familiar with the development said.
Earlier, Union home minister Amit Shah had told Parliament that the NC leader was confined to his home on his own volition.
This is the first time that a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir has been booked under the PSA.
The charges against Abdullah were framed on a day the Supreme Court heard a petition challenging his “illegal detention". A three-judge bench hearing the “habeas corpus" petition by Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Vaiko sought a response from the Centre and the state administration on producing Abdullah. Vaiko had alleged that Abdullah’s constitutional rights were being infringed upon because of the “illegal detention without any authority of law". The case will be next heard on 30 September.
The Supreme Court on Monday also sought a report from Jammu and Kashmir high court Chief Justice Gita Mittal on allegations by senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi that people were finding it difficult to approach the high court. Ahmadi was arguing for child rights activists Enakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha, who have filed a plea alleging that children and teenagers of the region were facing serious hardship. Ahmadi claimed that the high court was not functioning adequately because of restrictions in the state.
Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said: “If required, I will go and check. I will speak to the chief justice today."
The apex court, however, warned Ahmadi of serious consequences if the allegations were found to be false.
The top court also asked the central government and the state administration to ensure that normal life was restored in the region at the earliest, including smooth functioning of schools, hospitals and public transport.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the central government, told the court that “not a single bullet has been fired, and there has been no loss of life".
Mehta said restrictions have been removed in 93 police station areas of Kashmir, while Ladakh has no restrictions. When the court said that the Centre should ensure access to healthcare, Mehta read out a detailed report on the functioning of out-patient departments at various hospitals and also of medical shops operating across the state.