Govt keeps options open on PSA ordinance

Govt keeps options open on PSA ordinance

21 January 2012
The Daily Excelsior


Jammu: The Government was keeping options open on making amendments in Public Safety Act (PSA) after return of the proposed ordinance by Governor NN Vohra last month. The options before the Government included sending the document back to the Raj Bhavan for issuance of ordinance or taking the route of Legislature, which is meeting for its budget session from February 23. After fresh opinion by the Law Department, the document was now lying with Home Department, the charge of which was held by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Principal Secretary, Home, BR Sharma confirmed to the Excelsior that the document prepared for issuance of proposed ordinance on PSA was lying with the Home Department. 'A decision on whether to submit the document to the Governor second time for issuance of ordinance or take the Legislature route was yet to be taken’’, Mr Sharma said. Official sources said the Chief Minister was expected to take a final decision on reformed PSA after his return from Srinagar. The Governor, had on December 12 last year, returned the document to the Government on the ground that one of the clauses in it pertaining to 18 years of age was discriminatory and didn’t conform to Constitutional status, which guaranteed equality of law. He had said that the clause should be re-examined by the legal experts before issuance of the ordinance to ensure that there was no violation of right to equality. The Government had proposed that the youth from within Jammu and Kashmir couldn’t be detained under the PSA if they were below the age of 18. However, the youth from ‘other parts’ could be booked under the PSA even if they were below 18. The Raj Bhavan had objected to this clause and returned the document to the Government for a fresh look. The Law Department after obtaining opinion from the legal experts had forwarded the document to the Home Department as it is saying there was nothing wrong in the clause of 18 years. Sources said the Government was of the view that the clause could be necessitated for booking foreign nationals, mostly the militants, from Pakistan or any other country under PSA even if they were found to be below the age of 18 years. According to sources, the Home Department was expected to take a decision on the reformed PSA document in next few days on whether to send the document again to Raj Bhavan or opt for the Legislature session to commence on February 23 and get it passed there. The Government felt that since National Conference-Congress together enjoyed majority in both Houses of the Legislature and the reforms won’t be objected by even the opposition MLAs from Kashmir, it wouldn’t face any problem in getting the Act passed. The Government business has also been kept in first week of the session and the bill could be passed in the House. However, the legal experts were of the view that the legislation could also be objected to by the Raj Bhavan when it was sent there for the approval. According to sources, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah could pay a call to the Governor to explain the clause of 18 years age before sending the ordinance back to the Raj Bhavan or in the form of legislation. The Government had proposed that youth of Jammu and Kashmir below the age of 18 years shouldn’t be detained under the PSA. However, the proposal said the youth, who were non-state subjects (i.e. not the residents of Jammu and Kashmir) can be detained under PSA even if they were below the 18 years of age. 'This clause had been objected to by the Raj Bhavan on the ground that it was violation of the Constitution, which stand for equality among the citizens’’, sources said, adding that Governor NN Vohra decided to sent back the file to the State Government for fresh opinion from the legal experts as to whether this clause was within the Constitution or not. According to sources, the Raj Bhavan felt that legal opinion was necessitated on this clause as it differentiated between citizens of the country residing within Jammu and Kashmir and outside the State. The new Public Safety Act (PSA), which has been part of the Government’s ‘reforms’, had no difference between citizens in other clauses. 'It was only in this clause that minimum age bar of the youth for detention under PSA has been kept at 18 while there was no age bar for detention of non state-subjects’’, sources said. Other changed proposed in the PSA by the Government and sent to the Raj Bhavan for issuance of an ordinance included that a Board constituted by the Government for confirmation of PSA, imposed by the District Magistrates and recommendations of the District SPs, would have to confirm or reject the PSA within six week instead of earlier term of eight weeks. It proposed that the PSA would be imposed only for three months instead of one year in case of public law and order problem. However, it would be extendable up to a term of one year, if necessitated. However, in case of a threat to national security, the PSA would be imposed for a period of six months only instead of earlier term of two years. It would be extendable up to a period of two years. Term of the chairpersons and members of the Advisory Board for the PSA would be for a period of three years extendable for two more years. According to sources, the Government wanted to reform the PSA under which a number of Kashmiri youth, mostly stone pelters, had to be detained last year as well as this year to curb the incidents of stone pelting and street protests.