- Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti have been under detention since August 5
- Public Safety Act allows detention without trial for up to 2 years
- Farooq Abdullah was charged under the same law last September
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, under arrest for the last six months, were on Thursday charged under the Public Safety Act - a stringent law that allows detention without trial for up to three months and multiple extensions. The order came on the last day of their six-month detention without charges.
Mehbooba Mufti's daughter Iltija, who handles her Twitter account, confirmed the detention order.
Ms Mufti received a PSA order sometime back.Slapping the draconian PSA on 2 ex J&K CMs is expected from an autocratic regime that books 9 year olds for 'seditious remarks'. Question is how much longer will we act as bystanders as they desecrate what this nation stands for?— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) February 6, 2020
Two more leaders - Ali Mohammad Sagar of the National Conference (NC) and Sartaj Madhvi of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) - have also been booked under the PSA. Ironically, the charges against Mr Sagar, a general secretary of the NC, include his ability to mobilise people especially for voting in elections at the height of militancy in Kashmir.
Omar Abdullah will remain in custody at Hari Niwas, a state guest house, and Mehbooba Mufti will continue to be held at a government house in Srinagar.
Omar Abdullah's father, Farooq Abdullah was charged under the same law last September and has been under house arrest since August as well. The 83-year-old politician was charged with "disturbing public order" under the law, which means shorter detention of three months.
Hundreds of politicians including the Abdullahs and Mehbooba Mufti were detained or arrested in August as part of the centre's massive clampdown after its decision to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the constitution and split it into two union territories.
Using the PSA against Farooq Abdullah was the first instance of the law being used against a mainstream politician, especially an MP and a three-time Chief Minister. Usually, it has been used to arrest terrorists, separatists or stone-throwers.
Formally called the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, the law was introduced by Farooq Abdullah's father, former Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah, to target timber smugglers.
The PSA, often described as a "draconian law", empowers the government to detain individuals whose actions can be seen as "instigating, provoking or disturbing, or is likely to disturb, public order". It also allows the government to detain individuals "outside the limits of the territorial jurisdiction of the officer making the order".
Under Section 13 of the PSA, detention orders can only be issued by a Divisional Commissioner or District Magistrate, neither one of which is obliged to disclose facts about the detention that "it considers to be against the public interest".
The act has two sections; the one on disturbing 'public order' allows detention without trial for three months, which can be extended to six, and the part on 'threat to security of the state' could mean detention for two years.