New Delhi: What Is the Public Safety Act (PSA)? Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has been placed under house arrest under this law. The PSA allows the state to arrest or detain anyone for up to two years without trial.
Farooq Abdullah, 83, has been charged with “disturbing public order” under the PSA. He may be detained for three months. He is at his home in Srinagar, but for all practical purposes, it is his jail.
Hundreds of politicians including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah (Mr Abdullah’s son) and Mehbooba Mufti were detained or arrested last month after the Narendra Modi government’s clampdown following the cessation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. The state was split into two union territories. Farooq Abdullah was actually detained last month; the news of the development has arrived now.
The PSA was enacted in the 1970s to prevent smuggling of timber in Jammu and Kashmir, but those involved in such crimes were easily released after a brief detention. Sheikh Abdullah, the former chief minister and father of Farooq Abdullah, had brought in the Act as a deterrent against timber smugglers.
This law initially provided for imprisonment of anyone above the age of 16 for up to two years without a trial. In 2011, the minimum age was increased from 16 to 18. In recent decades, it was used against terrorists, separatists and stone-pelters. More than 550 people were detained under the PSA during protests in the Valley following the 2016 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani.
When militancy had erupted in the state in the early 1990s, the PSA had come in handy for the police and security forces. In 1990, when the then Union Home Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, enforced the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state, the PSA was used extensively to book people.
The custody under the PSA is periodically reviewed by an official committee and can, of course, be challenged in the High Court.
This is the first time since the enforcement of security restrictions after the virtual abrogation of Article 370 last month that a mainstream politician, MP and three-time chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir has been put under house arrest under the PSA.
Under the PSA, an order to detain a person can be issued by the District Magistrate or Divisional Commissioner.