PSA must go: Amnesty
‘Amendments Won’t Serve Any Purpose’
Srinagar, May 3: In its fresh report on human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir, global rights watchdog the Amnesty International (AI) has observed that mere amendments to the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) by the state government are not enough and instead the law should be scrapped.
AI has observed that hundreds of persons suspected of involvement in protests, including separatist leaders and activists, continue to remain in detention without charge for trial, and youth below 18-years of age are unlawfully detained in police stations and other detention centers run by state authorities.
The fresh observations by the international body follow the visit of its two-member team to the Kashmir valley last month to assess the human rights situation on the ground. During their 12-day stay in the Valley the team comprising Saptarshi Mandal and Sahana Basavapatna visited different districts.
“Amnesty International reiterates its call on the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to end the persistent practice of administrative detentions in the state, and repeal the Public Safety Act, 1978,” the AI has observed in its fresh report on J&K situation.
Last year, Amnesty International, for the first time in 20 years, released a report, ‘Lawless Law, Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act’ on detentions in JK under the PSA terming it a “lawless law.” The AI called for immediate abolition of the system of “administrative detentions.” “Hundreds of people are detained under the PSA in JK, and instead of charging and trying persons suspected of committing offences in a fair trial in a court of law, the J&K authorities continue to circumvent the rule of law by resorting to the PSA,” Amnesty had said in its voluminous report.
It said Jammu and Kashmir authorities were using PSA detentions as a “revolving door” to keep people they cannot or would not convict through proper legal channels locked up and “out of circulation.”
Following mounting pressure on it, State Government decided to amend the Act. Last March state legislature passed amendments to the PSA, first time since its implementation in 1978, reducing detention period under the law from 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 amendment 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. Another amendment includes that a youth (local/foreign) below the age of 18 years shouldn’t be detained under the PSA.
Today’s report mentions a legal team, deputed by the AI to review progress since its March 2011 report on detentions under the PSA, has found “no evidence” that an amendment to the PSA will bring J&K detention practices fully in line with India’s human rights obligations under international law,” the AI has observed. “Amnesty International delegates noted an apparent drop in the number of 16 and 17 year olds being detained, since a welcome new provision in the amendment that persons under 18 can no longer be detained under the PSA. However they continue to be unlawfully detained in police stations and other detention centers run by state authorities.”
The report adds young person above 18 years of age, in particular those perceived as having separatist views, continue to be harassed by the state police with threats of detention under the PSA, and with charges of attempted murder.
“Some former detainees and families of those still detained told the Amnesty International delegates that the revised PSA does not inspire much confidence, since authorities are able to continue their practice of revolving door detentions after the detention period, or after the judiciary has set aside he detention order.”
It has urged upon Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to “ensure” that all detainees are released or charged with a “recognizable criminal offence” and tried fairly in a court of law, safeguards must be introduced to ensure that those detained are charged promptly, have access to their families, legal counsel and medical examinations, and are held in recognized detention facilities pending trial.
Lastupdate on : Thu, 3 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 3 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 4 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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