ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Rule of the ‘Lawless Law’

Detentions under the Public Safety Act in Kashmir

The arbitrary and indiscriminate use of the Public Safety Act, 1978 to stifle political dissent in the Kashmir Valley shows a blatant disregard for the Constitution and the right to personal liberty enshrined therein. An examination of 100 cases in which Kashmiri youth were detained under the draconian PSA following the death of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani reveals that both the state executive and the judiciary are complicit in perpetuating this “lawless law.”

The author would like to acknowledge the help of advocates Mir Shafqat Hussain, Wajid Haseeb, Kartik Murukutla, and Zahoor Wani.

Ever since the youth uprising following Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani’skilling by the Indian army on 8 July 2016, the Kashmir Valley has seen repression and human rights violations on a scale greater than ever before. A lot has been written about the deaths and injuries caused by pellet guns, but one of the greatest weapons in the government’s armoury has been the preventive detentions carried out under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978. The law, which has been described as lawless by the Supreme Court (A K Roy v Union of India 1982), has been excessively applied with over 500 preventive detention orders being issued between July and October 2016 (Masood and Ahsan 2016). While this may appear to be a small number, the arbitrary nature of the use of the PSA has led to a chilling effect. Nobody knows what conduct attracts detention under the PSA or who may be the next target. It has been used against political leaders, human rights activists, protesters, and even common criminals. Moreover, the uncertainty that comes along with a PSA order is such that it affects not only the detainee, but his entire family.

The article examines the manner in which the PSA had been used between July and October 2016 and the resulting human rights violations by analysing 100 PSA cases1 in which habeas corpus petitions had been filed. Six families of detainees have also been interviewed. Before discussing the arbitrary and indiscriminate use of the PSA in the time period mentioned above, the article also briefly outlines the powers given to the administration under the PSA and the history of the act.

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Updated On : 11th Feb, 2020
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