The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Wednesday denied human rights group Amnesty International permission to hold an event to release a report on the misuse of the draconian Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA).
The human rights group finally released the briefing, titled Tyranny of A ‘Lawless Law’: Detention without Charge or Trial under the J&K PSA, on its website.
Nazia Erum, who manages media and advocacy for Amnesty International India, told HuffPost India that the decision was conveyed “verbally” by some officials at the Srinagar deputy commissioner’s office. The reason cited was the “law and order situation”.
Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Iqbal Choudhary couldn’t be reached for comment.
Jammu and Kashmir has been under presidential rule since December last year. It had been put under governor’s rule after the ruling PDP-BJP coalition government collapsed in June.
The Amnesty report said that researchers examined several government and legal documents related to people detained under PSA to conclude that there was a “pattern of abuse” by the state authorities.
“This includes detaining children, passing PSA orders without due diligence and on vague and general grounds, ignoring the limited safeguards under the Act, subjecting individuals to ‘revolving-door detentions’, using the PSA to prevent release on bail and undermine the criminal justice system,” the statement said.
Amnesty’s briefing is based on the analyses of the case studies of 210 detainees booked under the PSA between 2012 and 2018. Under PSA, a person can be detained for up to two years.
The human rights group found 71 cases of “revolving-door detentions”, a term that refers to the issuance of a new detention order or implicating a detainee in a new FIR to ensure that they are not released.
“The police appear to use the PSA as a safety net, using it to secure the detention of suspects who are released, or likely to be released, on bail. Conversations with the local lawyers suggest that the state police do not favour criminal proceedings as they involve a higher standard of proof and a presumption of innocence,” said Zahoor Wani, who led the study for Amnesty International India.
Enacted in 1978 to curb timber smuggling in the state, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act has become synonymous with the detention of hundreds of youth booked for stone-pelting, separatist activists and militant sympathisers, especially after 2008, when a surge of mass protests broke out across the state.
In 2016, when Burhan Wani, the popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander, was killed, more than 600 people were booked under the Act, said official sources.
“This Act is contributing to inflaming tensions between the state authorities and local populace and must be immediately repealed,” said Aakar Patel, Head of Amnesty International India.