The Supreme Court Wednesday took on record Jammu and Kashmir administration’s statement that former Union minister Saifuddin Soz was never placed under detention and disposed of his wife’s plea seeking the release of the senior Congress leader.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and M R Shah took on record the affidavit filed by J-K administration, which said that there were no restrictions on the movement of Soz and disposed of the habeas corpus plea observing that it cannot be entertained.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Mumtazunnisa Soz, wife of the octogenarian leader, said that “one fine day in August, you put me under detention and now in their counter affidavit, they say I am free”.
To this, the bench pointed out that Soz has travelled outside during the period claimed to be under detention.
Singhvi said the senior Congress leader was unwell and had travelled only for the medical reasons.
The bench said the J-K administration has stated that no detention order with regard to Soz was passed, and the plea cannot be entertained in view of its counter affidavit.
On June 8, the top court had sought response from the Centre and the J-K administration on the plea challenging Soz’s house arrest since August 5 last year.
Mumtazunnisa has also sought the production of veteran leader before the court and the quashing of the house arrest order.
She had alleged that till date the reasons for the detention have not been supplied to them and they are unable to challenge the arrest under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978.
This makes “his detention not only illegal, mala fide and unconstitutional, but also extremely appalling”, she said.
Soz was allegedly put under house arrest after the Centre had abrogated certain provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution which had granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
During the hearing, senior advocates A M Singhvi and P Chidambaram, appearing for Soz’s wife, said that the house arrest has been made without providing a single document.
Singhvi said that Soz is 82-years-old and the plea should be heard urgently by next week.
In her plea, Mumtazunnisa said: “The detention of Prof. Saifuddin Soz is wholly contrary and perverse to the constitutional safeguards laid down under Articles 21 (right to life) and 22 (right to know the reasons of arrest), as well as the law on preventive detention.
“Not only does it attract the vice of unconstitutionality, it is also in contravention of the statutory scheme of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978, under which the detention has purportedly been made.”
The plea, settled by Singhvi and filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes, said: “The Presidential Order proposed that the state be bifurcated as Union Territory of Ladakh (centrally administered) and as Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir (with its Legislative Assembly). Prior to this announcement, several leaders…Were placed under house arrest with internet and phone services curtailed.”
The habeas corpus (bring the person) writ plea has sought production of Soz before the court and a direction for quashing of the detention orders passed by the authorities.
Seeking forthwith release of Soz, the plea said, “Ten months have passed since his first detention, and he is yet to be informed of his grounds of detention. All efforts by him to obtain a copy of the detention order(s) have been of no avail due to the illegal, arbitrary exercise of powers by the Respondent No. 2 (UT of J-K).”
The authority has also refused to supply a copy of the detention order, despite repeated requests by the detenu, failing which the detenu has been put under detention for a prolonged period with no recourse under law, the plea said.
It said Soz has been a “law-abiding, peaceful Indian citizen” who never committed any breach of peace and represented the Baramulla Constituency.
“Furthermore, the detenu has always advocated for the Union of India and consistently upheld the Constitutional principles, respect for the nation and vehemently opposed and separatist or anti-India voices in J&K (despite his daughter being kidnapped by such forces),” it said.
“He has consistently demonstrated an unwavering loyalty to the Indian Constitution even in the face of separatist threats. He therefore cannot be considered by any stretch of imagination to be a threat to public safety,” the plea said.
Soz has been re-elected numerous times for the Lok Sabha and also served as Union Minister besides being the President of the Jammu & Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee for quite some time, it said, adding that he was never threat to the peace. Various political leaders including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were arrested and put under house detention in August last year following the abrogation of Article 370.