NC Calls Meet To Test Govt’s Claim On ‘Free’ Party Leaders

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NC leaders – File Pic

Srinagar- The National Conference has decided to convene a meeting of its senior leaders on Thursday after the local administration informed the Jammu and Kashmir High Court that none of the 16 leaders, that the party claimed were in illegal confinement, were detained and that they were free to move around.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the National Conference said it had taken note of the government’s stand in the High Court on the petition filed by party president Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar to secure the liberty of its various leaders who have been under illegal house detention.

“On a perusal of the reply the party has noticed that the government has unequivocally submitted before the High Court that no leader is under detention and that they are free to move subject to necessary security arrangements,” the statement said.

“Now relying fully on the stand of the government before the HC that the members are free to move and expecting no hogwash on part of the government, the party president Farooq Abdullah has invited senior party members including Ali Mohammad Sagar, Abdul Rahim Rather, Mohammad Shafi Uri and Nasir Aslam Wani for a meeting at his residence on 20.8.2020 at 5 pm,” it said.

The party also made it clear that it is mindful of the present pandemic and accordingly the meeting with various leaders that have been under detention will be done in batches of four members per meeting. “Needless to add that all standard operating procedures shall be strictly followed by all concerned,” the party statement said.

The party is hopeful that the liberty of the members under detention is now absolute and the meeting will be held successfully on the appointed day, it said.

The Abdullah father-son duo had filed a bunch of habeas corpus petitions on July 13 seeking their release.

A habeas corpus is a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention.

Filing the replies before the High Court earlier this month, senior additional advocate general Bashir Ahmad Dar said the contention of the pleas was “not only surprising but shocking as well” as there were neither any legal proceedings underway nor was it being contemplated.

The similarly worded replies, vetted by Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range), however, said in the wake of Constitutional amendments carried out in the Article 370, “it was apprehended that inimical elements may disturb the peace” and the leaders “may provoke them to cause aggravation in the disturbance”.

However, no order of detention either under preventive detention law or substantive law was issued against the party leaders, it said, adding, the leaders were free to move with certain precautions “as deemed fit” for their security.

The reply said the petitioner being a categorised person has been advised not to visit any vulnerable areas without informing the concerned authorities” and reasoned that it was to ensure proper security.

The Abdullahs had filed 16 petitions on July 13 for as many NC leaders contending that they were being held in “brazen violation” of Constitutional guarantees of the right to liberty.

The writ petitions filed under Article 226 of the Constitution lists NC general secretary Ali Mohammed Sagar, provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani, senior leader Aga Syed Mehmood, party’s chief spokesperson Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, among the leaders being detained at their residences illegally and wrongfully without serving them grounds of detention.

The leaders have been forcibly restricted by police personnel stationed outside their residences for the past 11 months, the pleas claim.

Other leaders for whose release the petitions have been filed were Abdul Rahim Rather, Mohammad Khalil Bandh, Irfan Shah and Sahmeema Firdous, Mohammad Shafi Uri, Chaudhary Mohammad Ramzaan, Mubarak Gul, Dr Bashir Veeri, Abdul Majeed Larmi, Basharat Bukhari, Saifudin Bhat Shutru and Mohammad Shafi.

The senior Abdullah has filed the habeas corpus petitions for seven leaders while Omar has filed for the remaining nine.

Both Abdullahs, who were first taken into preventive custody and then detained under the stringent public safety act for several months since the intervening night of August 4 and 5, hours before Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked by the centre, have pleaded that the detainees be set at liberty.

The reply of the home department said the petitioner being protected persons were well within the charter of duties of the administration to ensure their safety and security.

“…it is emphatically denied that currently or in the past any detention order is in the force against” the leaders and the administration was functioning “strictly within the parameters of law”.

There is no infringement or brazen violation of the law as claimed in the petition. “The respondents have shown utmost respect for the law of the land,” it said and pleaded for dismissal of the petition with costs.

The party leadership moved the High Court after the petitions of these detained leaders to the Home Secretary of Union Territory on June 30 seeking removal of restriction on their movement and set them at “absolute liberty” remained unanswered.

The party, before moving the High Court, had expressed hope that the legal system will come to the rescue of their colleagues, who have been suffering for no fault ever since the abrogation of provisions of Art 370, Art 35A on August 5, 2019.

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