Home ministry revisits Public Safety Act after Masarat fiasco

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New Delhi, March 14: The Union Home Ministry is having a serious re-look at the Public Safety Act of 1978. It was under this act that Hurriyat hardliner Masarat Alam had been detained and his release had kicked up a storm.

In the year 2012, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had come down heavily on the manner in which the provisions under the Public Safety Act was being used. It had termed some of the actions taken under this act as arbitrary in nature.


Need to exercise caution:

The Home Ministry while looking into the act felt that the same needs to be used sparingly. It is only under extreme circumstances that the act should be used and only for a limited, the Home Ministry has observed.

Further the Home Ministry felt that if there are cases pending against persons the trial needs to be expedited instead of using the PSA and placing people under detention indefinitely.

If persons are placed under detention under the PSA and then released, it would carry a bad signal. Hence it is better to expedite the trial against such persons and give no scope for debate or room to the courts to question a detention which is often referred to as arbitrary, the Home Ministry has also observed.

Recommendations on PSA:

The issue of the Public Safety Act being misused has been debated several times in the past. There were demands made in the past to dilute some of the provisions under this act.

It was stated by several in Jammu and Kashmir that the Act is being misused due to its arbitrary usage.

The contentious Chapter 4 of the Act which deals with powers to pass orders relating to detention and also Section 8 which deals with the detention of certain persons needed to be looked into.

It was found that these sections provided a wide power to the detaining authority. If persons were found to be promoting enmity on the ground of caste, creed, race or religion they could be detained.

As per the rule once the district collector issues an order of detention it needed to be approved by the government within 12 days.

Need to differentiate:

When the UPA was in power it was recommended that the time frame for the detention should be made clear. It was found that arbitrary use of this clause was being exercised even for minor offences.

The detention period as per the PSA could range from one year for public disturbance to two years for threatening security of the state. As per the recommendations the detention periods ought to have been fixed on the nature of the offence which could range between a week for a minor offence to a month to a major offence.

A catch-22 situation:

For the union government it is a catch 22 situation. There are many hardliners who need to be detained for longer periods in a bid to control a situation.

Take for instance the stone pelting incident of 2009 which brought the entire Valley to a standstill. In such cases a detention period of one month was too less for the masterminds as they could well come out after a short duration and cause a ruckus again.

The Union Home Ministry feels that instead of revisiting the provisions, it would be in the best interest to exercise a judicious approach and give no room for judicial scrutiny.

An official in the home ministry informed Oneindia that the ideal way to go about the issue is to build a strong case and try the accused in the court of law until he is convicted.

New Delhi

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