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'Detention Can't be Forever': SC to Centre, J&K Admin on Mehbooba Mufti's House Arrest

Mehbooba is under detention at her official residence in Srinagar that has been declared a subsidiary jail.

Mehbooba is under detention at her official residence in Srinagar that has been declared a subsidiary jail.

Mehbooba, the president of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was arrested on the eve of the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status and its bifurcation into Union Territories on August 5 last year.

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Utkarsh Anand

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought to know from the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration if the authorities can legally detain people for more than a year on the ground of public order.

The question came up as a bench, headed by Justice Sanjay K Kaul, was hearing a petition by the daughter of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti against the latter’s detention.

As the court wanted to know from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta about the extended period of Mufti’s detention, it asked the law officer whether it was permissible to detain someone under the Public Safety Act for over a year.

“This question has come up during a previous matter too. For how long can you detain people? Can it be for more than a year? Detention cannot be forever,” Justice Kaul told Mehta.

When advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan pleaded that Mufti be at least given two phone calls a day like those in prisons, the bench sought to know from Mehta till when the authorities want to keep her in detention.

“Find a via media...find a way out. We are putting you to caution as to for how long a detention can be,” it told Mehta.

The Solicitor General, on his part, requested the bench to reserve its observations: “I will request my lords not to make any observation at this stage. Every case is different. Here, the detenuee, who is a former chief minister, issued public statements on bloodbath in the state.”

The bench responded: “In exuberance, several things are said which may not be right.” Mehta, however, pointed out that such things have a cascading effect in a state that has suffered militancy for decades now.

“That is unfortunate. Such a wonderful state had to see all this but what can be done,” replied the bench, adding the SG will have to satisfy the court on its queries in law on the maximum permissible period of detention as well as its proposed action with regard to Mufti’s detention.

Fixing the matter for a detailed hearing on October 15, it said that the authorities should come prepared on the next day to answer the court’s questions.

The court, however, turned down Ramakrishnan’s plea to allow Mufti attend party meetings. It said such blanket permission cannot be granted and that she should approach the authorities as and when required.

Mehbooba Mufti, the president of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was arrested on the eve of the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status and its bifurcation into two Union Territories on August 5 last year.

Mufti’s daughter Iltija has challenged her mother’s detention under the PSA, contending not only it was unlawful but showed non-application of minds by the authorities concerned. The petition stated that the grounds and the dossier for detention are "stale, vague and that they suffer from non-application of mind, malice in law and that they violate the provisions of Section 8(3)(b) of the PSA".


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