N.C. leaders “free to move”, J&K government tells High Court

Published : August 12, 2020 15:54 IST

Omar Abdullah, National Conference leader and former Chief Minister, in Srinagar on July 28. Photo: NISSAR AHMAD

In what seems like a move to normalise the culture of illegal house arrests, the Jammu and Kashmir administration informed the Jammu and Kashmir High Court that the 16 National Conference (N.C.) leaders whose release the party has sought through habeas corpus petitions were “free to move”. This comes days after senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz’s illegal detention created a furore on social media. 

On July 29, the Supreme Court disposed of a habeas corpus petition filed by Soz’s counsel after the Jammu and Kashmir government said the leader was not under detention. On July 30, a video clip showed Soz being whisked away by his security guards when he climbed up a platform inside his premises to speak to the media that had assembled outside. 

The N.C. had filed petitions in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking the release of 16 of its leaders who were not being allowed to move from their houses despite not being booked under any official charges. On August 11, the government rejoinder filed in the court said that the categorised persons had been advised not to visit any vulnerable areas without informing the authorities concerned. The Union Territory administration argued that the restrictions were aimed at ensuring proper security.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took to Twitter to register his protest. "‘None of them are detained’ yet none of them are free to leave their homes. If it’s about their security, then how come the same ‘precautions’ aren’t taken for BJP & Apni party leaders? Soz Sb exposed the lies of the administration when they took a similar line in the SC", he wrote.

The N.C. said the government’s rejoinder indicated that the situation in the Kashmir valley was worse than in the 1990s. "The administration is suggesting that the senior N.C. leaders whose detention has been challenged are being confined to their respective places because of the security situation in the valley. If they are at home because of security reasons, then can the government please list how many BJP and Apni party leaders are under similar ‘protective’ custody? Is the government obliquely saying that militancy is worse than it was in the early 90s?" N.C. spokesperson Imran Dar asked.

He said the lies of the government were previously exposed in Soz’s case. "The administration in his matter had informed the honorable court that Soz Sahib was a free man, free to go anywhere although his plight lately became known to the public. In another such case of one of our senior leaders, the government took more than 72 hours to process his permission to travel to Delhi for a check-up and that too after his cardiologist in Delhi intervened. Another functionary of our party was taken in an armed convoy for a check-up, disallowed from using his own vehicle and prohibited from visiting his relatives," Dar said.