PSA Amended – Detention period reduced to 6 months; Minimum age 18 years

Jammu, Apr 05: Following strong criticism by local, national and international human rights organizations and the common people, Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly Wednesday amended the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA). Under the new provisions, the government has now reduced the minimum period of detention under the Act to six months from two years, while no persons below the age of 18 years can be detained under this law. However, in contravention to its earlier stand, the government has now provided the minimum age limit for the detainee under the Act as 18 years for both state and non-state subjects. In the ordinance, which was sent to the Governor earlier, the government had provided a distinction between the state and non-state subjects, which was objected by the Governor, who returned the ordinance to the government for reconsideration. Speaking on the Bill on behalf of Chief Minister, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar said that it was commitment of Omar Abdullah to tone down harsh laws like PSA and AFSPA prevalent in the state and to scrap these laws when situation on the ground improves. He admitted that during land row agitation in 2008, many minors were also booked under PSA on the charges of stone pelting. Sagar also said that any person detained under PSA would be now informed grounds of his detention in the language known to him/her to give a human face to PSA and give positive message to the people of the state. Sagar further said that persons below the age of 18 years shall not be detained under the law. The stipulated period of 8 weeks prescribed for State Advisory Board to give its opinion has been reduced to 6 weeks, while the maximum period of detention of 12 months stipulated in section 18 of the Act – in case of persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public law and order – has been reduced to three months in the first instance extendable to 12 months. Similarly, in case of persons acting in any manner – prejudicial to the security of the State – the period of detention has been stipulated six months in the first instance extendable up to two years. Sagar said that the government desires that situation improves in the state, era of peace and development prevails and human rights violation be stopped. “We all are victims of the unfavorable circumstances in the state”, he said. Panthers Party MLA Harsh Dev Singh said that detaining children below 18 years of age under PSA is violation of juvenile law. PDP MLA Nizamudin Bhat said that mere amendments in this law were not enough. “PSA is needed to be scrapped immediately”, he added. Over the years, under this law thousands of people, mostly political activists, have been taken into preventive custody and kept in jails without trial for many years. Last year, Amnesty International had released a report on detentions in Jammu and Kashmir under the PSA terming the Act as “lawless law.” The Amnesty called for abolition of the system of administrative detentions in Jammu and Kashmir as it facilitates the practice of torture. “Hundreds of people are detained under the PSA in Jammu and Kashmir, many of them political activists and youth suspected of throwing stones at security forces. Instead of charging and trying persons suspected of committing offences in a fair trial in a court of law the Jammu and Kashmir authorities continue to circumvent the rule of law by resorting to the PSA,” Amnesty had said.

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