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New SC Bench to hear Sara Abdullah”s plea on PSA

Srinagar: The Supreme Court will on Friday hear a petition by Sara Abdullah Pilot against former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and her brother Omar Abdullah’s detention under the Public Safety Act or PSA. The petition will be heard by a new division bench, comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Indira Banerjee after one of the three Supreme Court judges in the previous bench recused from the case, reported Hindustan Times.

Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar announced his decision to step back from the case as soon as the bench took up the petition on Wednesday. “I am not participating in this matter,” Hindustan Times quoted Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar as having said without citing any reason.

The previous bench comprised three judges – Justices NV Ramana, MM Shantanagoudar and Sanjiv Khanna.

Sara Pilot moved the Supreme Court on Monday challenging Omar Abdullah’s fresh detention under the PSA. Terming the February 5 order under the PSA “unconstitutional”, Omar’s sister said it violated fundamental rights and filed a Habeas Corpus petition.

Omar Abdullah, who has been in custody for six months, was detained hours before the Centre approached Parliament on August 5 last year to scrap Article 370 of the Constitution that granted special status to the erstwhile state, now split into two union territories.

As he completed six months in custody, the government ordered his continued detention under the PSA that empowers authorities to hold any person for two more years.

In her petition, Sarah argued that Omar Abdullah was a votary of peace and there was overwhelming evidence in the form of tweets and public statements to prove the same.

Sara Abdullah also extensively quoted from the government’s dossier on the former chief minister that formed part of the material which formed the administration’s decision to issue the detention order.

The reports on the contents of the police dossier on Abdullah have invited sharp political criticism.

Omar Abdullah’s sister has pointed to portions that cited Abdullah’s political influence even during the peak of militancy to support his detention under PSA.

In her petition, Pilot said: “That the dossier states that the capacity of the subject (detenu) to influence people for any cause ‘could be gauged from the fact that he was able to convince the electorate to come out and vote in huge numbers even during peak militancy and poll boycotts’. In other words, the detenu is accused of convincing people to participate in elections in huge numbers and exercise their democratic right to vote despite threats from militants.”

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