J&K Congress leader Saifuddin Soz rejects Centre’s stand in SC that he was never put under house arrest

“The govt has resorted to falsehood as it had unlawfully incarcerated me since August 5, 2019. All this while I was not allowed to move out of my premises,” he said in a statement issued on Wednesday

Former Union minister Prof Saifuddin Soz (Photo Courtesy: <b>Twitter</b>)
Former Union minister Prof Saifuddin Soz (Photo Courtesy: <b>Twitter</b>)

NH Web Desk

Former Union Minister Prof. Saifuddin Soz on Wednesday issued a statement rejecting the Centre’s “narration of falsehood before the Supreme Court denying that I had neither been put under house arrest nor any restrictions were imposed on me since August 5, 2019”.

“I take a strong exception to the Govt. stand before the Supreme Court that I had neither been put under house-arrest nor had any restrictions been imposed on me since August 5, 2019. The Govt. has resorted to falsehood as it had unlawfully incarcerated me since August 5, 2019. All this while I was not allowed to move out of my premises,” he said.

“I left my premises twice when I had to visit my ailing sister and I went to Delhi on 17th September, 2019 to 21st September, 2019 and 15th December, 2019 to 21st December, 2019 for seeking medical advice.

Whenever I went out of my premises since August 5, 2019, I had to obtain permission from the Govt,” he added.

“Now, I have decided to sue the Govt. for my unlawful house arrest since August 5, 2019. I will further sue the Govt for compensation for the incarceration and illegal suspension of civil liberties to which I am entitled under the Constitution,” he said.

The statement by Soz was made in response to the Jammu and Kashmir Administration contending in the Supreme Court that the senior Congress leader was neither detained nor put under house arrest after abrogation of Article 370.

In a complete denial of the version put forth by Soz's wife Mumtazunnisa in the top court, the J&K Home Department has said the former union minister was never under any kind of restraint, and that he was always free to move.

“There is no restriction on movement of Prof Saifuddin Soz to any place, subject to security clearance which is contingent upon law and order and security situation of that area… Prof Soz has never been placed under any detention, as alleged," the affidavit by Special Secretary, Home has stated in the court.

It added no question arises of giving a copy of the detention order or reasons to Soz and his family when "no such order has ever been passed" by any authority in J&K.

The affidavit said Soz is a categorised protectee, who has been provided with round the clock security guards and personal security officers, who escort him whenever he goes and follow the security protocol.

It denied that the Station House Officer of Budgam visited Soz's residence to instruct security guards that the octogenarian has been put under house arrest.

There was general restriction on movement of people on August 5, 2019, in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 but Soz was never detained or his movements were restricted by passing of any order, the affidavit stated.

Dubbing the contentions by his wife in the court as "false, frivolous and baseless", the Home Department pointed out Soz travelled outside J&K at least on two occasions by air in October and December 2019, besides his travelling to local areas.

A bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, will examine this affidavit on Wednesday as it takes up the plea by Mumtazunnisa to 'release' her husband from 'illegal detention'.

Earlier, on July 16, the Supreme Court adjourned the habeas corpus plea filed against the Government of Jammu and Kashmir's detention order Prof. Saifuddin Soz. A Bench comprising of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and MR Shah adjourned the plea to July 29 on the submission of the Union that more time was required for filing of a Reply to the petition.

Previously, a Bench headed by Justice Mishra had issued notice in the matter, after hearing Senior Advocates P. Chidambaram and Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who submitted that Prof. Soz had been kept under detention for over 10 months without proper communication with regard to the grounds of said detention.

The petition, filed on behalf of Prof. Soz's wife, Mrs. Mumtazunnisa Soz, states that "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."

The plea further contends that the detention is wholly contrary and perverse to the constitutional safeguards laid down under Article 21 and

22 of the Constitution of India, as well as the law on prevention detention. It is further in contravention of the statutory scheme of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 ["PSA Act"], under which the detention order has been purportedly passed.

It has been averred in the plea that there are glaring violations which surround the illegal detention of the detenu: The grounds of detention have not been communicated to the detenu by the authority passing the detention order. No copy of the order has been provided, despite numerous requests. This is in grave violation of Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India which states that the authority making the order shall communicate to the dentenu the grounds on which the order has been made, and shall afford the detenu the earliest possible opportunity of making representation against the order.

"Aside from not being furnished with the grounds of detention, and being virtually denied of the right to make a representation, the detenu has been kept in detention without reasons for a period of more than ten months on the date of filing this petition," it says.

Furthermore, under the PSA Act, the maximum period of detention under Section 18 is three months in the first instance, extendable up to 12 months if the person is acting in a manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order. It is six months in the first instance, extendable up to two years for persons acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state. 2. In contravention of constitutional guidelines as well as the the statutory scheme of the PSA Act, the detenu has been denied the right to make a representation against the order(s) of detention.

The plea avers that it has been ten months since the detenu was placed on house arrest and, due to the non-furnishing of grounds of detention as well as non-supply of copy of the order, the detenu has not been able to make any representation against the order. This is in violation of Article 22(5) as well as Section 13 of the PSA Act. The plea refers to the case of Ibrahim Ahmad Batti v. State of Gujarat (1982) to drive home this point.

The plea states that: "In this regard, it may be appreciated that the detenu is a senior citizen and an octogenarian. As already stated, the detenu is a man of letters and is of an academic bent. His conduct, both prior to and post the revocation of status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, has been peaceable. He has no criminal antecedent and has never in the past committed any offence, let alone those of disturbing the security of the State or public tranquility in any manner as described under Section 8(3) of the Act".

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