Congress leader and former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz is "free and not under detention," the Jammu and Kashmir administration today told the Supreme Court, which was hearing a petition by the politician's wife asking for his release from "illegal detention" and for him to be brought to the court. The Supreme Court accepted the administration's statement and closed the case.
Hours later, Saifuddin Soz was not allowed by policemen posted at his home in Srinagar to come out or speak to the media.
"How can the government say in the Supreme Court that Soz is free when I continue to be under detention," the politician screamed at the policemen from behind a closed gate and barbed wire barricades.
In an affidavit before the Supreme Court, the Jammu and Kashmir administration, however, said Mr Soz was "never detained nor under house arrest" and there are "no restrictions on his movement subject to security clearance." The affidavit also called his wife's petition false, frivolous and baseless.
"There is no restriction on the movement of Professor Saifuddin Soz to any place, subject to security clearance which is contingent upon law and order and security situation of that area. Professor Soz has never been placed under any detention, as alleged," said the affidavit filed by the Special Secretary, Jammu and Kashmir Home Department.
To support its claim, the administration said Mr Soz had travelled out of Jammu and Kashmir at least twice by air in October and December.
Senior lawyer and Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the J&K administration's affidavit was "contrary to facts" but Justice AM Mishra said: "We will not enter into it any further."
Mr Soz later said in a statement that he took "strong exception" to the government stand in the Supreme Court that he had neither been put under house-arrest nor had faced any restrictions since August 5 last year, when the centre scrapped special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and divided it into two union territories.
Scores of politicians were detained and movement was severely restricted as part of the security curbs enforced in the days following the shock decision. Former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah were released in March.
"The government has resorted to falsehood as it had unlawfully incarcerated me since August 5, 2019. All this while I was not allowed to move out of my premises," Mr Soz said.
He confirmed that he had travelled out twice, when he had to visit his unwell sister and when he went to Delhi for medical advice.
"Whenever I went out of my premises since August 5, 2019, I had to obtain permission from the government. Now I have decided to sue the government for my unlawful house arrest since August 5, 2019. I will further sue the government for compensation for the incarceration and illegal suspension of civil liberties to which I am entitled under the Constitution," he said.