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Public Safety Act

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Public Safety Act:

Why in News?

The special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked on August 5 last year. But, even after almost a year, over two dozen mainstream leaders of the regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir remain under house arrest.

  • The state was stripped of special status under Article 370 and the government had also repealed Article 35A.

Concerns associated with such measures:

  1. House detentions without any administrative orders are unlawful.
  2. It undermines human rights and individual liberty.
  3. Even the courts failed to hear petitions and left jailed Kashmiris at the mercy of the government.

How many people have been arrested so far?

Jammu and Kashmir home department officials estimate that, in the run up to and aftermath of August 5, more than 500 people were booked under the Public Safety Act.

  • That included stone-pelters, lawyers, separatist leaders of the Hurriyat as well as leaders of pro-India parties.
  • Around 250 Kashmiri detainees are still lodged in jails outside the Union Territory.

Since 6th of August, 2019, more than six hundred Habeas Corpus Petitions have been filed before the Hon’ble High Court of Union Territory of J&K at Srinagar and till date not even 1% of such cases have been decided by the J&K High Court.

What needs to be done now?

  1. Conditional release of leaders placed under house arrest for more than a year.
  2. Restoration of 4G network.
  3. Lifting of the curbs on peaceful political activity.
  4. A multilevel dialogue with those affected with the August 5 decision.
  5. Compensation to Kashmiri farmers and businessmen for their economic losses.

Powers of government under the Public Safety Act:

  • Also called as the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978.
  • It is a preventive detention law, under which a person is taken into custody to prevent him or her from acting in any manner that is prejudicial to the security of the state or the maintenance of the public order”.

When and why was it introduced?

Introduced as a tough law to prevent the smuggling of timber and keep the smugglers “out of circulation”.

Applicability:

  1. The law allowed the government to detain any person above the age of 16 without trial for a period of two years.
  2. It 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”.

How is it enforced?

It comes into force when administrative order passed by either by Divisional Commissioner or the District Magistrate.

The detaining authority need not disclose any facts about the detention “which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose”.

Protection to enforcing authorities:

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.”

Who is empowered to make rules in this regard?

Under Section 23 of the Act, the government is empowered to “make such Rules consistent with the provisions of this Act, as may be necessary for carrying out the objects of this Act”.

However, no Rules have so far been framed to lay down procedures for the implementation of the provisions of the PSA.

But, why is the law controversial?

  1. It allows for detention without trial.
  2. No Right to File Bail
  3. It provides a vast number of reasons for detention.
  4. No Distinction Between Minor and Major Offences.

Can the Courts intervene?

The only way this administrative preventive detention order can be challenged is through a habeas corpus petition filed by relatives of the detained person.

  • The High Court and the Supreme Court have the jurisdiction to hear such petitions.
  • However, if the order is quashed, there is no bar on the government passing another detention order under the PSA and detaining the person again.

Insta Fact:

Article 22 (3) – If a person is arrested or detained under preventive detention, then the protection against arrest and detention under Article 22 (1) and 22(2) shall not be available.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Articles 370 and 35A are related to?
  2. Preventive detention related provisions under the Indian Constitution.
  3. When and why was Public Safety Act introduced?
  4. Sections 22 and 23 of the Public Safety Act are related to?
  5. Who enforces the provisions of the act?

Mains Link:

Discuss the key features of Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). Why is it often referred to as a “draconian” law?

Sources: the Hindu.