Four decades on, no rules, SOP under PSA

Mir Farhat. Updated: 1/4/2018 2:17:02 AM Front Page

SRINAGAR: Despite the state government using Public Safety Act (PSA) rampantly against anti-national elements and suspected criminals, it has not framed any rules or Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) yet under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act during the four decades of its existence.
According to Section 23 of J&K PSA, 1978, the state government is empowered to make Rules to implement this law. Yet no government in the state invoked Section 23 to make any Rule for implementing J&KPSA even after forty years of enactment.
The information of absence of rules to implement the Act was revealed by the Home Department of state in reply to an RTI.
While replying to an RTI application filed by an organization, namely J&K RTI Movement, the Home Department, which is headed by the chief minister, has admitted that the State Government has not made any Rules or Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 during the four decades of its existence.
In absence of rules, the District Magistrates and Divisional Commissioners, who under Section 8 of J&KPSA detain a person/s accused by police of having committed a crime, have been issuing detention orders every year against drug peddlers, smugglers and anti-nationals under the controversial Act, without much else to guide them except the reports and dossiers prepared by the police.
The Home Department has also revealed, in the RTI reply, that 1,003 persons had been detained across J&K, for varying periods under this law, between March 2016 and August 2017- a period which included several months of turmoil since July 2016 after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen young commander Burhan Wani.
The department revealed that no minors were detained under the Act in this period. The Home Department, however, refused to reveal the identities of the detenues, citing Section 8(1)(f) and 8(1)(g) of the J&K Right to Information Act, 2009 (J&K RTI Act). While Section 8(1)(f) exempts disclosure of information that may endanger the life or safety of a person or reveal the source of information given in confidence to law enforcement agencies, Section 8(1)(g) exempts the disclosure of information that may impede the process of investigation, prosecution or apprehension of offenders.
Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, the chairman of JK RTI Movement, told The News Now that members of the RTI Movement and other civil society activists filed common RTI applications across all districts of state in June 2017 seeking different information about the PSA.
He said that SOPs are issued in order to provide detailed procedures for implementing statutory provisions or rulings of High Courts and the Supreme Court on specific matters. This is common practice across other States, he said.
Despite the J&K Home Department's admission about the non-existence of Rules and SOPs under the J&KPSA, the districts gave contradictory and even strange replies to similar queries, he said.
"A case in point is the DM, Anantnag who through his PA, though Assistant Commissioner, Revenue is the Public Information Officer, sent the reply stating that "the J&KPSA is a rule book consisting upon 711 pages and is in binding shape. It is not possible to Photostat the book. The Book is available at Govt. Press, Srinagar."
As regards the SOPs issued under J&KPSA, the PA replied: "The Standard Procedures (SOPs) is a rule book consisting upon hundreds of pages. It is not possible to photostat the same. The book is available at Govt. Press, Srinagar."
"It appears that the office of the DM Anantnag (one of the worst affected districts during the turmoil) is following a rulebook for detaining people under J&KPSA about which the J&K Home Department is also not aware. This office replied only after the RTI applicants filed a first appeal after waiting in vain for the PIO's reply for the first 30 days," he said.
"The PIO of the DM's office, Srinagar attached a copy of the complete text of the J&KPSA to his reply and advised the RTI applicants to approach the proper forum, namely Home Department for the Rules and the SOPs," he said.
"Several districts have not bothered to send replies even after first appeals were filed. Second appeals are being filed against them to the State Information Commission," he said.
PSA which was enacted during the late 1970s to tackle timber smuggling and, unlike the substantive criminal laws like the Ranbir Penal Code which recognises specific criminal offences, it empowers the administration to detain a person in order to prevent him or her from committing certain specific actions.
In 2011, Amnesty International published a detailed study highlighting the serious human rights violations that had occurred in hundreds of cases of preventive detentions made under J&KPSA.

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