‘RTI shows Farooq applying for leaves from Parl’

Srinagar, Feb 21: A Right to Information request filed by India Today has led to replies by the Lok Sabha which point to the fact that MP Farooq Abdullah – who has been under detention since August 5, 2019 – has been applying for leaves from the Lower House in order to ostensibly remain arrested.
Abdullah, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir has been detained since the Centre announced its decision to read down Article 370 in Kashmir. On September 16, he was charged under the Public Safety Act, which allows for detention for up to two years without trial.
During this time, the Lok Sabha has been in session thrice. First, from June 17 to August 6. Then, from November 18 to December 13. And finally, from January 31 to February 11.
Naturally, Abdullah, who is placed under the most stringent of restrictions has not attending the second and third sessions and the final two days of the first sessions.
Rules dictate that members who do not sign the attendance register apply for leave. Which is exactly what the Lok Sabha secretariat claims Abdullah did – so that his arrest could seemingly continue. In a reply which chiefly redirects the journalist who requested for the information to the official Lok Sabha portal of www.loksabha.nic.in, the house also refused to furnish copies of Abdullah’s leave application.
As noted by India Today, the reason cited was: “Since the matter [his application for leave of absence] is under the consideration of the Committee on the Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House, the copy of his leave application cannot be provided to the applicant at this stage.”
The department also evaded the question as to whether the government has informed the Lower House about the reason behind Abdullah’s absence.
The India Today report also notes the news portal’s experience at the official website’s attendance page, to which it was directed by the RTI’s response.
As noted by India Today, the page merely attests to the fact that Abdullah has been ‘absent’ on days it is known he missed parliament on. For the second and third sessions of the 17th Lok Sabha, Abdullah’s attendance sheet says ‘no records found’.
For the first session, in which the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Bill, 2019, was moved and passed, Abdullah’s attendance is noted for 27 of the 37 days the parliament was in session.
In addition, India Today notes that there were five MPs in the list of leave applicants whose request has been granted. “Farooq Abdullah’s name is not one of them. One of the names is that of Atul Kumar Singh alias Atul Rai who applied for leave because of his detention in jail,” the news portal says.
In response to their question on how long a member may remain absent from the house, the Lok Sabha secretariat cited the constitution to say:
“If for a period of sixty days a member of either House of Parliament is without permission of the House absent from all meetings thereof, the House may declare his seat vacant. Provided that in computing the said period of sixty days no account shall be taken of any period during which the House is prorogued or is adjourned for more than four consecutive days.”
Abdullah, meanwhile, was named member of the Standing Committee on Railways and Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Defence, in September, 2019. He was then, as he is now, under detention.
His prolonged absence from the parliament is often brought up by opposition during debates.
India’s Union home minister Amit Shah, when the Speaker had been asked as to where Abdullah was in August of 2019, had claimed that he had “neither been detained nor arrested”. He had said Abdullah was at his home by his own will.

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