New Delhi: Wife of senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz has filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court seeking he be produced before the apex court and that the order of his detention passed by the government of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir be quashed.
Soz, who is in his eighties, was placed under house arrest at his Airport Avenue home in Srinagar on August 8, 2019 – the very day when the Centre passed a Presidential Order revoking the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 and 35A of the constitution of India.
In her petition, Mumtazunnisa Soz invoked Article 32 of the constitution to seek that her husband be produced. She also insisted that while 10 months have passed since he was detained, he was yet to be informed of the grounds of his detention. She held that it was due to the “arbitrary exercise of powers” by the UT government that “all efforts by him to obtain a copy of the detention order(s) have been of no avail”.
The petition, filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes, said that after Soz was placed under house arrest, the leader has been visited by the concerned station head officer and he was told that his detention was “purportedly under the Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978.”
The politician approached the Jammu and Kashmir Police and requested for a copy of the detention order but the police refused to do so, stating that “written orders have been received by the concerned officers for implementation of the order”.
‘No response from UT government on detention’
The petition also stated that on May 15 this year Soz wrote to the Principal Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, requesting her to release him as he had not committed any offence under any Act to be detained without communication of reason for a prolonged period.
“However, no response has been received from the officer,” the petition said, adding that till its filing on May 28, “the detenu has been wrongfully detained and kept in house arrest for an indefinite period, grounds of which have neither been communicated to him, nor has a copy of the impugned detention order been furnished to him despite several requests over the course of ten months, which is violative of the exercise of the fundamental rights of the detenu.”
The petition also claimed 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 preventive detention. Not only does it attract the vice of unconstitutionality, it is also in stark contravention of the statutory scheme of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”), under which the detention has purportedly been made.”
Soz served as Union Minister twice
Recalling Soz’s contributions, the petition stated that he is “an octogenarian and a former Member of Parliament, who represented the Baramulla Constituency in the year 1983. Since then, he has been re-elected numerous times, and has also served as a Union Minister for Environment and Forests from 1997-99, and as the Union Minister for Water Resources from 2006-2009.”
As a senior politician too, Soz has been president of Jammu & Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee and has also also authored several books and plays on Kashmir and the concept of secularism. Soz is a recipient of the Soviet Land Nehru Award, the All India Basic Literature Competition Award and the Competition for Literature for Neo-Literates Award.
Calling him a “law-abiding, peaceful Indian citizen” who has “not committed any breach of peace” or public tranquillity, the petition charged that he has been “detained and put under house arrest since August of 2019 and the reasons for detention and arrest have never been informed till date, thereby making his detention not only illegal, malafide and unconstitutional, but also extremely appalling.”
Stating that Soz “always advocated for the Union of India and consistently upheld the Constitutional principles, respect for the nation and vehemently opposed separatist or anti-India voices in J&K (despite his daughter being kidnapped by such forces),” the petition said, he has “consistently demonstrated an unwavering loyalty to the Indian Constitution even in the face of separatist threats.”
There, it argued, he “cannot be considered by any stretch of imagination to be a threat to public safety.”