March 31, 2020
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Telangana news
Supreme Court judge Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar recused himself on Wednesday from hearing a petition filed by Sara Abdullah Pilot, sister of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, against the government’s move to charge him under the Public Safety Act (PSA).“I will not hear this matter,” the judge said immediately after the case was called for hearing before the three-judge Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana and also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna.The case is likely to be listed before another Bench on Thursday.Ms. Pilot urged for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus for authorities to forthwith produce Mr. Omar Abdullah before the Supreme Court and set him at liberty.The petition is represented by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Gopal Sankaranarayanan.Ms. Pilot 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.Ms. Pilot 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 Mr. 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.‘Arbitrary exercise of power’On February 5, the Executive Magistrate, instead of releasing him, ordered his further detention under Section 8 of the PSA of 1978 in an “arbitrary exercise of power”.Ms. Pilot 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 Mr. 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.Ms. Pilot urged there was danger to her brother’s life and liberty.The government, in its PSA dossier against charging Mr. Omar Abdullah, 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”, Ms. Pilot 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, Mr. Omar Abdullah 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 — Mr. Omar Abdullah’s father Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — remained detained under the PSA along with other leaders.Mr. Omar Abdullah had been an MP from 1998-2009 and subsequently a member of the J&K Legislative Assembly, the petition said. He had been a Minister at the Centre twice, as Minister of State for Commerce and MoS for the Ministry of External Affairs.“It is rare that those who have served the nation as Members of Parliament and have always stood by the national aspirations of India, are now perceived as a threat to the State,” the petition said.Mr. Sibal, appearing for Ms. Pilot, came back to mention before Justice Ramana’s Bench that he would not be available on Thursday. The court has now agreed to list the case on Friday.

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