Amending PSA No Use: Legal Experts

Amending PSA No Use: Legal Experts

25 March 2012
Greater Kashmir
Umer Maqbool

Srinagar: Clamour for repeal of Public Safety Act (PSA) is back in public domain following the custodial death of a Sopore youth, Sajad Ahmed Dar, who was serving detention under the law at Kupwara jail. While the State Government is contemplating to table the proposed amendments in the Act in Legislative Assembly soon, mainstream political parties and legal experts are demanding complete repeal of the Act, saying that slight changes won’t make any difference and prevent its misuse. Chief spokesman of opposition Peoples Democratic Party Naeem Akthar said there is urgent need for revoking the “draconian laws” like PSA and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). “According to Jammu and Kashmir police, there are only 200 militants left in the state and in such a scenario, there is no merit in continuation of these laws,” Akthar told Greater Kashmir. State Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) M Y Tarigami too echoed the same views on the issue. “I don’t think any amendment is sufficient to protect or safeguard the rights of our people. PSA has been indiscriminately used to trample the democratic rights of the common people. It is high time that the government should revoke the Act so that common masses, who have suffered immensely, would heave a sigh of relief. It can prove one of the biggest confidence building measures for Kashmiris,” he said. Senior leader of National Conference and Member Legislative Assembly Dr Mustafa Kamal acknowledged misuse of PSA. “Unfortunately, the PSA which was made to act as a deterrent against crime suffers from misuse. It could have become a tool to prevent recurrence of the crimes like timber smuggling and drug addition, had it been used in right direction,” Kamal said. “But, there is necessity to put in checks to curb its illegal use by enforcing authorities,” he added. The PSA was framed in 1978 and its first victim was president of Kashmir Motor Drivers Association (KMDA), Ghulam Nabi. In 1977 Ghulam Nabi had contested elections on Janta Party ticket against late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. In 1990, when Governor’s rule was imposed in the State, PSA got another amendment. The then Governor Jagmohan inserted another section in the Act, by virtue of which detainees booked under the Act could be lodged in any jail in the country. On other hand, legal experts opine that there is no mechanism in the proposed changes, which can prevent “arbitrary” and “indiscriminate” application of PSA. Senior High Court Lawyer Riyaz Khawar said the amendments are not substantial in nature and won’t help the victims afflicted by the legislation. “Reducing time period of detention won’t serve any purpose. When a detainee will complete his term of three or six months as per changes suggested, the district magistrate can re-slap the Act,” he said. According to him, PSA is used by politicians and bureaucrats to settle their scores. Khawar said that preventive laws like PSA, are hardly in vogue in any corner of the globe. “The preventive detention laws have only been applied in emergencies in other parts . But, when abnormal situation ceased, these laws were withdrawn forthwith,” he said. Pertinently, the State Government had proposed amendments in PSA last year, to do away with its harsher clauses. However, its move was scuttled by Raj Bhavan, after Governor N N Vohra sought clarification on one of the clauses. Now, the Government is contemplating to pass the amendments in the ongoing assembly session. The amendments proposed by the Government include that the detention period under PSA shall be reduced from the existing one year to three months in case of public disorder and from two years to six months in cases involving security of the state. However, in both the situations there is provision for revision and the detention period can be extended to one year and two years respectively. Another change provides that a detainee under PSA would be communicated in his-her own language about grounds of detention and all the formalities for slapping PSA on an accused shall be completed within six weeks instead of eight weeks as was given under the existing provisions of the Act. Besides, chairman of Public Safety Advisory Board can be appointed for two terms only.