Introduced to deter timber smugglers, the J&K PSA explained
New Delhi, Sep 17: A law that was brought about as a deterrent against timber smugglers was used to detain former Jammu and Kashmir, chief minister, Farooq Abdullah.
Abdullah was detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA). The stringent PSA was introduced in Jammu and Kashmir to tackle timber smuggling as those involved in the crime at that time would easily get away with minimal detention.
Sheikh Abdullah brought the Act as a deterrent against timber smugglers as it provided a jail term, without a trial, for up to two years.
However, this Act came in handy for the police and security forces during the early 1990s when terrorism peaked in the state.
After the then Union home minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed enforced the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state in 1990, the PSA was used rampantly for picking up people in the state.
On Monday though, the four-decade-old act was used by the police to detain Sheikh Abdullah's son Farooq, himself a three-term chief minister and five-time parliamentarian.
Detention under the PSA is subject to periodic review by an official screening committee and can be challenged in the high court.
The Act was amended in 2012 and some of its stricter provisions were relaxed. After the amendment, period up to which a first-time offender or individual can be put in detention without trial was reduced from two years to six months.
However, a provision has been kept in the Act to extend the detention, if necessary, to up to two years, they said.
Sheikh Abdullah's grandson, Omar Abdullah, who has also served the state as a chief minister, had promised during the Lok Sabha elections that if his government comes to power in the state, it would press for the abolition of the PSA.
J&K PSA explained:
- The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA) received assent of the Governor on April 8 1978.
- The PSA was brought in to prevent timber smuggling.
- The law allows the government to detain any person above the age of 16, without trial for two years.
- The PSA allows for administrative detention for up to two years "in the case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State", and for administrative detention up to one year where "any person is acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order".
- The district magistrates and divisional commissioners are empowered to issue detention orders under the PSA.
- Section 22 of the Act provides protection for any action taken "in good faith" under the Act: "No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this Act."
- Section 23 empowers the government to make such rules consistent with the provisions of this Act, as may be necessary for carrying out the objects of this Act.
- In August 2018, the Act was amended to allow individuals from outside the state to be detained as well.