- "...Cruel invocation of Public Safety Act": P Chidambaram
- "Unjust laws are passed or unjust laws are invoked," he said
- Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah charged under Public Safety Act
The Congress's P Chidambaram was left "shocked and devastated" after former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah - detained without charge for over six months - were among several leaders charged under the stringent Public Safety Act late last night. In a series of early morning tweets, posted in both English and Hindi, the former Union Home Minister lashed out at the detention of citizens without charges, labelling it "the worst abomination in a democracy".
Mr Chidambaram is currently out on bail after being sent to Delhi's Tihar Jail in connection with the INX Media case. On his release from jail he pointed out "after 106 days of pre-trial incarceration, there is not a single charge that has been framed against me".
"Shocked and devastated by the cruel invocation of the Public Safety Act against Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and others. Detention without charges is the worst abomination in a democracy," Mr Chidambaram tweeted.
"When unjust laws are passed or unjust laws are invoked, what option do the people have than to protest peacefully?" the Congress leader added.
Detention without charges is the worst abomination in a democracy— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) February 7, 2020
When unjust laws are passed or unjust laws are invoked, what option do the people have than to protest peacefully?
Hundreds of political leaders, including the Ms Mufti and Omar Abdullah, were among those detained or arrested in August as part of a massive clampdown by the centre after its decision to end special status to J&K under Article 370 and split it into two union territories.
After being charged under the Public Safety Act, Omar Abdullah will remain in custody at Hari Niwas, a state guest house, and Ms Mufti will continue to be held at a government house in Srinagar.
A third former Chief Minister - 83-year-old Farooq Abdullah - who is Omar Abdullah's father - was charged with "disturbing public order" under the same law last year, after also being held without charge since August.
The detention of leaders was followed by an internet shutdown, the banning of protests and the deployment of thousands of soldiers, in a move fiercely criticised by the opposition and for which last month the Supreme Court hauled up the centre.
The court also criticised the centre for its repeated use of Section 144, a colonial-era rule to ban large gatherings, saying it could not be used "as a tool to oppress difference of opinion".
Mr Chidambaram was one of those who hit out at the BJP on the issue, alleging it would not have "snatched away" special status if J&K been Hindu-dominated.
The use of the Public Safety Act against Farooq Abdullah was a landmark decision - the first instance of the law used against a mainstream politician, especially an MP and a three-time Chief Minister.
It is normally used to arrest terrorists, separatists or stone-throwers. Its use was also significant because it was introduced by Farooq Abdullah's father, former Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah, to target timber smugglers.
The Public Safety Act (PSA), often described as a "draconian law", it 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 limits of territorial jurisdiction of officer making the order".