Ishfaq-ul-Hassan | India Tomorrow
SRINAGAR—Supreme Court’s decision to grant interim bail to Republic TV founder Arnab Goswami has opened a pandora’s box in Jammu and Kashmir, with leaders and activists calling out the delay in similar cases involving Kashmiris.
“Agree with SC’s outrage on right to liberty. But, sadly, this outrage has been selective as there are hundreds of Kashmiris and journalists languishing in jails on baseless charges. Forget court ruling, they didn’t even get a hearing. Why no sense of urgency for their liberty?” asked former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who was released after 14 months of detention last month.
Mehbooba was among the three former chief ministers including Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah who were arrested by the government on the intervening night of August 4 and 5, 2019 when the Centre abrogated Article 370 and downgraded the state into two union territories –Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh
In fact, Mehbooba’s daughter Iltija Mufti had filed a petition against her mother’s detention in February. The case was scheduled to be listed for March 18. She told the top court that the Jammu and Kashmir administration was yet to file its reply to the petition.
Later in September, she filed a habeas corpus petition challenging her mother’s detention under the Public Safety Act. In her petition, she said that the grounds of her mother’s detention were “stale, vague and that they suffer from non-application of mind, malice in law, and that they violate the provisions of sections 8(3) (b) of the PSA”.
However, the J&K government revoked Mebooba’s PSA on October 14, 2020 and set her free.
Earlier in February this year, Omar Abdullah’s sister Sara Pilot approached the Supreme Court seeking to quash the PSA against her brother. The administration, however, objected to the petition saying “Omar has been a very vocal critic of any possible abrogation of Article 370 prior to its abrogation on August 5, 2019, considering the very peculiar geopolitical position of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and its geographical proximity with Pakistan, the concept of ‘public order’ needs to be examined contextually.”
Omar was released on March 24, 2020 when Jammu and Kashmir government revoked his detention under Public Safety Act.
However, it was the curious case of Farooq Abdullah that raised many eyebrows. On August 5, 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament that Abdullah was “not detained or arrested”.
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) chief and Rajya Sabha MP Vaiko filed a habeas corpus petition praying that Farooq Abdullah be presented before the apex court.
However, the Supreme Court refused to entertain his plea and asked the MDMK leader to challenge the detention order under the Public Safety Act.
Farooq was released after seven months on March 13, 2020 when the government revoked his detention under PSA.
For the last several months, the petitions challenging Article 370 abrogation are pending in the apex court. Seemingly unhappy with the delay, the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference, which is part of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) approached the apex court seeking an early hearing.
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, pending the final hearing of these petitions challenging the abrogation of the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu & and Kashmir and the abrogation of the Constitution of Jammu & and Kashmir, and notwithstanding the prevailing pandemic, conditions, sweeping changes are being brought about by the Centre that impact the rights of a large number of people, including dilution of the safeguards earlier available to the permanent residents of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir,” read the application before the court.
Guftar Ahmad, a tribal and human rights activist, said Arnab Goswami is more important than 1.25 crore humans of J&K. “Supreme Court has time to hear him but not the public of J&K. Where was SC when Centre abrogated Article 370 in an unconstitutional way by keeping whole J&K under curfew,” he tweeted.
He said for the last one and a half years, two times elected MLA of J&K @mlalangate (Engineer Rashid) is in jail and everyone is silent. “Arnab Goswami the person who spread hate across the country and was arrested in a suicide case got bail in just 7 days. What a sad state of affairs. Release Engineer Rashid,” Ahmad said.