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J&K HC orders Rs 5-lakh relief for man ‘illegally detained’ under PSA

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently ordered a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for a man who was deemed to have been ‘illegally detained’ under the Public Safety Act (PSA). This marks the first instance where the court has penalized the state for detention under the PSA, a law allowing authorities to detain individuals without trial for up to two years.

In its judgment, the court quashed the detention of the petitioner, a former spokesperson of the banned Jamaat-e-Islami, citing it as “mala fide and illegal.” The petitioner had endured over 1,080 days of preventive custody across four detention orders from 2019 to March 2024. The court deemed this prolonged detention as a violation of the petitioner’s fundamental right to personal liberty.

Despite the petitioner seeking Rs 25 lakh in compensation, the court directed the state to pay Rs 5 lakh. The petitioner, Ali Mohammad Lone, alias Advocate Zahid Ali, had faced successive PSA detentions starting from March 2019, all of which were subsequently quashed by the court.

The judgment also criticized the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and the District Magistrate, Pulwama, for not considering the previous orders quashing the PSA before issuing the fourth detention order. The court questioned the authorities’ claim of an “open and fair mindset” given their oversight of the previous judgments.

It observed that the fourth detention of the petitioner was indicative of a preconceived mindset to keep him detained, even without a criminal conviction. The fact that the dossier and detention order were dated the same day raised suspicions of a predetermined intent to keep the petitioner incarcerated.

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