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Sara’s petition in SC against PSA on Omar Abdullah: Judge recuses himself from hearing plea

New Delhi, Feb 12: Supreme Court judge Justice M M Shantanagoudar on Wednesday recused himself from hearing the plea filed by Sara Abdulla Pilot challenging detention of her brother and NC leader Omar Abdullah under the Public Safety Act.

Sara’s plea came up for hearing before a three-judge bench comprising justices N V Ramana, Shantanagoudar and Sanjiv Khanna.

 

“I am not participating in this matter,” Justice Shantanagoudar said at the outset.

The bench said the plea could be heard on Thursday.

Sara urged for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus for authorities to forthwith produce Omar Abdullah before the Supreme Court and set him at liberty.

The petition is represented by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Gopal Sankaranarayanan.

She said she was gravely concerned about the welfare, safety and security of her brother. He was already under detention from August 5 last year — the day the Centre removed the special rights of the Kashmiri people under Article 370 — when the PSA was slapped on him on February 5, 2020.

Sara said she was shocked to learn that, just like what happened to their father, the government, had imposed a fresh lease of detention under the PSA on her brother too.

The petition explained that Omar Abdullah’s detention from August 5 under Section 107 Cr. PC (security for keeping the peace) was scheduled to end on February 5, 2020. His release was imminent. He had served the maximum period of detention.

On February 5, the Executive Magistrate, instead of releasing Omar, ordered his further detention under Section 8 of the PSA of 1978 in an “arbitrary exercise of power”.

Sara asked what the point was of detaining a man already detained through the long months of lockdown suffered across Jammu and Kashmir.

In fact, during the past six months there had been no effort by authorities to verify the truth behind the “information” that Omar Abdullah was a threat to peace. On the other hand, there were reams of material in the form of tweets and public statements vouching for his exemplary conduct to maintain peace, she said.

Sara urged there was danger to her brother’s life and liberty.

The government, in its PSA dossier against charging Omar, described him as a threat to public safety. It said he was “planning activities against the Union government”. It also highlighted “his popularity and potential to draw voters to polling booths”.

The writ petition argued that the detention order was illegal as it conflated ‘governmental policy’ with the ‘Indian State’, suggesting that any opposition to the former constituted a threat to the latter.

“This is wholly antithetical to a democratic polity and undermines the Indian Constitution,” it added.

Both the dossier and detention order contain “patently false and ridiculous material, essentially accusing the detenu of becoming a popular figure among general masses”. The grounds of detention were at best “illusory, vague and irrelevant”, Sara contended.

The petition argued that if a petitioner’s personal liberty had already been taken away, there would be no fresh material or grounds for his further detention. Hence, the new detention order under the PSA was simply “motivated by malice”.

The petition narrated how at one point of time during his over six-month detention, Omar had refused the government’s overture to set him free in exchange for an undertaking that he would not participate in public assemblies in connection with the de-operationalisation of Article 370.

Two other former J&K Chief Ministers —Omar’s father Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — remained detained under the PSA along with other leaders.