J&K HC Issues Notice to Administration Over Mirwaiz Umar's Detention

The lawyer representing All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman moved a habeas corpus petition challenging his 'illegal confinement'. He has been under house arrest since August 4, 2019.

Srinagar: The high court on Friday, September 14, issued a notice asking the Jammu and Kashmir administration to respond within four weeks to a Habeas Corpus petition challenging the “illegal confinement” of All Parties Hurriyat Conference chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.

“The notice was received by the Senior Additional Advocate General on behalf of the state. The matter has been listed for detailed objections from the administration on October 4,” said Nazir Ahmad Ronga, Mirwaiz’s counsel, who approached the high court on behalf of the moderate Hurriyat chairman.

Invoking the fundamental right to life guaranteed by the constitution, the Habeas Corpus petition of Mirwaiz, who is also the chief cleric of Kashmir, claims that the administration, which is run by the Bhartiya Janta Party-led Union government, has imposed “arbitrary” curbs on his movement since August 4, 2019, a day before Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated and downgraded into two Union territories.

Mirwaiz had earlier sent a notice to J&K’s chief secretary, Arun Kumar Mehta, threatening to challenge his “unwarranted”, “illegal” and “arbitrary” detention in the court. The notice was also marked to lieutenant governor, Manoj Sinha, and the J&K police chief. Sources close to Mirwaiz said that the administration has not replied to the notice so far.

“We have sought his release and asked for non-interference with his personal liberty and the rights guaranteed by the constitution,” Ronga, a senior lawyer who filed the petition at the high court, told The Wire.

For more than four years, the petition states that two police vehicles and security personnel have been deployed outside Mirwaiz’s residence in Nigeen locality curtailing his movement by using powers “unknown to the law of the land”. “He has been deprived of his fundamental rights guaranteed to him under Article 19 and 21 of the constitution of India,” the petition states.

Mirwaiz has “suffered illegal confinement in a most unjustified and illegal manner which amounts to misuse of power and authority” while causing “mental agony” to him as his detention has affected his entire family, according to the petition, which asserts that the Hurriyat leader has a “right to claim compensation and damages” from the administration.

Lieutenant governor Sinha has denied that Mirwaiz was under curbs, claiming that he was “free to go wherever he likes”. The petition, however, states that Mirwaiz tried to come out of his house after Sinha’s statement and attend congregational Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on August 26.

However, the petition, while pointing to photographic evidence, videos, and news reports, claims that Mirwaiz was stopped from leaving his house even after Sinha’s assurance, “The fact is that the petitioner is not being allowed to move or to attend the congregational prayers on Fridays at Jamia Masiid, Srinagar, therefore …. (his) religious rights are also infringed in violation of Articles 25-28 of the Constitution.”

The 11-page petition terms the J&K administration’s stand as a “concocted story” while accusing it of “propagating misinformation” about Mirwaiz’s condition.

“The (administration has) … been on one hand detaining the petitioner illegally and unauthorisedly and on the other hand, they have been claiming that the petitioner is free to move anywhere else he wants,” the petition notes, while urging the court to appoint a judicial officer for “spot inspection” of Mirwaiz’s residence to “ascertain the actual position.”

As chief cleric of Kashmir, Mirwaiz, whose father, Molvi Mohammad Farooq, was assassinated in Srinagar on May 21, 1990, legislated on religious matters and also led prayers on Fridays and other significant religious days at the historic Jamia Masjid, Kashmir’s largest mosque located in Nowhatta locality of downtown Srinagar.

The petition states that Mirwaiz is a “strong advocate of peace not only in J&K but also in the entire sub-continent” who believes in “universal brotherhood, religious tolerance and coexistence” and promotes “good values and eradication of social ills in the society”

“By confining him, he has not only being deprived of his noble mission and cause but such illegal action of respondents are also depriving hundred and thousands of people from listening to his inspiring Friday sermons and the sermons he delivers across the valley on important religious occasions,” the petition states, terming Mirwaiz’s detention as  a “deliberate attempt to hurt the religious sentiments of people of J&K.”

With his legal notice to the J&K administration going unanswered, the petition notes that Mirwaiz has been “condemned unheard which is against the basic principles of natural justice”.

The petition also points to a letter of Mutahida Mailis-e-Ulema, an amalgam of religious organisations, which had on August 13 sought an appointment with LG Sinha to seek his intervention in the release of Mirwaiz. “However, the Lieutenant Governor’s office did not respond to the letter,” the petition states.

The petition urges the high court to issue “a writ, order or direction, directing the respondents not to create any impediments into the day-to-day life of the petitioner including his free movement as a citizen and allow him to perform and enjoy the freedom and liberty guaranteed to petitioner under the constitution.”