Is PSA detention of Farooq Abdullah invalid?

New Delhi: Is the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA) valid under which former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah (83), a sitting MP who had taken oath of the Indian Constitution, has been detailed? Senior advocate Bhim Singh, chief patron of the J&K Panthers Party, says the PSA and all laws enacted on the strength of Article 370 and 35-A lost the Constitutional validity on August 4, the day President Ram Nath Kovind passed the order abolishing these two Articles.

In fact, he has petitioned the President for release of not only Dr Abdullah but all prisoners detained under the Act that was enacted by his late father and CM Sheikh Abdullah in 1978 to detain the timber smugglers without trial for two years and is now used by the government to deal with the stone throwers and those opposed to its policies. Dr Farooq Abdullah is, however, the first former chief minister who has been detained under the Act to defeat a habeas corpus petition that was listed in the Apex Court on Monday and listed on September 30 for the government's reply.

His detention has sent a shock wave in the Kashmir valley since people fear none is safe when the law is applied to even a person like Dr Abdullah, who is an outright pro-India politician and a forthright critic of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. A clear message stemming from the government action is that "if the government has a right to seize criminals, it also has the right to seize you." In his petition to the President, Bhim Singh writes: "I wonder how the administration, operating under the President's rule in J&K, can allow such a law to operate which has lost its constitutional validity after Article 370 and 35-A have been withdrawn."

He points out that the PSA was enacted by the J&K Assembly enjoying special powers Article 35-A that was imposed not through a Constitutional amendment by Parliament but through a Presidential order in May 1954 authorising the state government "to issue/pass any law curbing/limiting scope of any fundamental rights enshrined in Chapter-III of the Constitution of India, ranging from Article 12 to 35.

The PSA was amended in August last year to allow detentions even outside J&K and the first such arrest was made last month when bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal was detained at Delhi airport just as he was to fly abroad. There is a big outcry among the political parties, led by Rajya Sabha Opposition leader and former J&K CM Ghulam Nabi Azad of Congress, that Dr Farooq Abdullah is no criminal to let loose the police upon him.

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