NC leaders meet at Abdullah's home, after admin tells HC no party leader in detention

Four senior National Conference leaders on Thursday attended a meeting convened by party president Farooq Abdullah at his residence. Mubashir Khan/GK

Four senior National Conference leaders on Thursday attended a meeting convened by party president Farooq Abdullah at his residence, days after the Jammu and Kashmir administration denied in the High Court the party’s claim that many of its leaders were in illegal confinement at their homes.

NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar and former ministers Mohammad Shafi Uri, Abdul Rahim Rather and Nasir Sogami arrived for the meeting at Abdullah’s Gupkar Road residence.

Lok Sabha member from North Kashmir Mohammad Akbar Lone was also seen going inside the residence of Abdullah, who is a Lok Sabha member from Srinagar.

The National Conference had on Wednesday decided to convene Thursday’s meeting of its senior leaders after the local administration had informed the Jammu and Kashmir High Court that none of the 16 leaders, that the party claimed were in illegal confinement, were detained and that they were free to move around.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the National Conference said it had taken note of the government’s stand in the High Court on the petition filed by Abdullah and his son Omar to secure the liberty of its various leaders who have been under “illegal house detention”.

“On a perusal of the reply the party has noticed that the government has unequivocally submitted before the High Court that no leader is under detention and that they are free to move subject to necessary security arrangements,” the statement said.

“Now relying fully on the stand of the government before the HC that the members are free to move and expecting no hogwash on part of the government, the party president Farooq Abdullah has invited senior party members including Ali Mohammad Sagar, Abdul Rahim Rather, Mohammad Shafi Uri and Nasir Aslam Wani for a meeting at his residence on 20.8.2020 at 5 pm,” it had said.

The party had also said it was mindful of the present pandemic and the meeting with various leaders who have been under detention will be done in batches of four members per meeting. “Needless to add that all standard operating procedures shall be strictly followed by all concerned,” the party statement had said.

The Abdullah father-son duo had filed a bunch of habeas corpus petitions on July 13 seeking the party leaders’ release.

A habeas corpus is a writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to secure the person’s release unless lawful grounds are shown for their detention.

Filing the replies before the High Court earlier this month, senior additional advocate general Bashir Ahmad Dar said the contention of the pleas was “not only surprising but shocking as well” as there were neither any legal proceedings underway nor was it being contemplated.

The similarly worded replies, vetted by Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range), however, said in the wake of Constitutional amendments carried out in the Article 370, “it was apprehended that inimical elements may disturb the peace” and the leaders “may provoke them to cause aggravation in the disturbance”.

However, no order of detention either under preventive detention law or substantive law was issued against the party leaders, it said, adding, the leaders were free to move with certain precautions “as deemed fit” for their security.

The replies said the petitioners being categorised persons had been advised not to visit any vulnerable areas without informing the concerned authorities” and reasoned that it was to ensure proper security.

The Abdullahs had filed 16 petitions on July 13 for as many NC leaders contending that they were being held in “brazen violation” of Constitutional guarantees of the right to liberty.

The writ petitions filed under Article 226 of the Constitution listed NC general secretary Ali Mohammed Sagar, provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani, senior leader Aga Syed Mehmood, party’s chief spokesperson Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi, among the leaders being detained at their residences illegally and wrongfully without serving them grounds of detention.

The leaders have been forcibly restricted by police personnel stationed outside their residences for the past 11 months, the pleas claimed.

Other leaders for whose release the petitions have been filed were Abdul Rahim Rather, Mohammad Khalil Bandh, Irfan Shah and Sahmeema Firdous, Mohammad Shafi Uri, Chaudhary Mohammad Ramzaan, Mubarak Gul, Dr Bashir Veeri, Abdul Majeed Larmi, Basharat Bukhari, Saifudin Bhat Shutru and Mohammad Shafi.

Both Abdullahs, who were first taken into preventive custody and then detained under the stringent public safety act for several months since the intervening night of August 4 and 5, hours before Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked by the centre, pleaded that the detainees be set at liberty.

The party leadership moved the High Court after the petitions of the detained leaders to the Home Secretary of Union Territory on June 30 seeking removal of restrictions on their movement and set them at “absolute liberty” remained unanswered.