Three former chief ministers of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir have completed six months in detention. Though the administration has released several political leaders and activists in past few months, the two major political parties of Jammu and Kashmir -- PDP and National Conference -- have been urging the government to release their top leaders, but there has been no assurance or any timeline for their release.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah were detained on August 5 last year, hours before the Centre abolished the special status of J&K and bifurcated it into two Union Territories, carving out Ladakh as a separate UT.
The government put the entire political leadership -- both mainstream and separatists -- in guest houses, sub-jails or shifted them to prisons outside the state.
“Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti and other leaders have been detained under section 107. First of all, you cannot arrest anyone under Section 107 CrPc. Under this section you ask a person to furnish a bond and that is it. The government should release political detainees,” National Conference's Member Parliament, Hasnian Masoodi, told Outlook.
“Section 107 is to be dropped and these detainees must be released,” he said.
A senior official told Outlook that the government has to take a call on the detention of two former CMs -- Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti -- and other mainstream leaders in the first week of February as they have not agreed to sign a bond mandatory under Section 107 CrPc to maintain “peace”.
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“On February 5, they will complete six months of their detention under Section 107 CrPc. And in case the government wants to keep them in further detention, the advisory board has to recommend it,” the official said. The officials said these leaders were detained on the orders of the magistrate concerned under. However, in case of Farooq Abdullah, the government has no such legal requirement as he has been booked under the PSA.
“Usual procedure is that the police take a person in a custody after fearing law and order situation under Section 151 CrPc and then produce him before the Court within 24 hours. But in case of political detainees, executive magistrates in different districts directly invoked Section 107 CrPc and took them into preventive detention or turned their residences into sub-jail,” the officials said.
Iltija Mufti, daughter of Mehbooba Mufti, who has been active on Twitter using her mother's handle, said they have no information whether and when the government will release the former chief minister.
Of the three former CMs, Farooq Abdullah has been slapped with controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) -- a law that allows the detention for up to two years without a trial for people above the age of 18.
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Since former CMs and lower-rung leaders like Sajad Lone and Shah Faesal haven’t been granted any bail bond, the police have to present an inquiry report under Section 117 of CrPc within the six months.
“Following the police report and decision of the advisory board of the home department, further action would be taken in case of former Chief Ministers and other leaders,” official sources told Outlook.
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However, some officials said there is a lot of room within the Section 107 CrPc to keep a person in detention for up to one year. “Had the police detained political leaders or others under Section 151 of CrPc, they would have all secured bail or the courts would have quashed their detention within 24 hours,” a police official told Outlook.
“That is why this British-era law came handy this time,” he added.