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HomeIndiaJ&K to release 31 prisoners detained under Public Safety Act amid coronavirus...

J&K to release 31 prisoners detained under Public Safety Act amid coronavirus outbreak

Politicians including former CM Mehbooba Mufti and Shah Faisal, detained under the Public Safety Act, however, will remain in custody.

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Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration Monday revoked the detention of 31 people under the Public Safety Act (PSA), starting the process of releasing prisoners from different jails of the union territory in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak.

Government officials said the home department ordered the release of 31 people, who had been in detention since August, from the Srinagar Central Prison.

Among these 31 are people allegedly involved in separatist activities, violence against security forces and those having a record of unlawful activities to pursue secessionist politics, said officials.

The authorities in J&K had detained thousands of people, some of them under the PSA, on suspicion that they could instigate others to oppose the Narendra Modi government’s August 2019 decision to scrap Article 370 withdrawing the special status granted to the erstwhile state.

These 31 include persons detained after the Article 370 move and not those who were arrested under the PSA prior to August 2019.

Officials said the 31 individuals have been ordered to be released in two batches of 14 and 17, respectively, adding more would be sent home in the coming days.

“For now the administration is looking at those individuals booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA). However, there are other prisoners, not necessarily booked under PSA, who would be released as well. This is in compliance with the Supreme Court directions passed last week,” a senior police officer told ThePrint.

The union territory has reported 48 positive coronavirus cases and two deaths as of Tuesday.

Also read:How Covid-19 is changing Indian politics

Detention of Mehbooba Mufti, Shah Faisal continues 

For now, while the government has decided to revoke PSA against over two dozen individuals, politicians from the Valley held under the same law continue to remain lodged in different sub-jails in the Valley. They include former J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti, IAS officer-turned-politician Shah Faisal, PDP leader Naeem Akhtar and National Conference general secretary Ali Sagar.

On 23 March, the Supreme Court ordered all states to consider releasing some prisoners on parole to reduce overcrowding in prisons. Each state was also ordered to constitute a high powered committee that will decide on the matter.

In J&K, the committee comprises Executive Chairman, J&K State Legal Services Authority, Justice Rajesh Bindal, Principal Secretary (Home) Shaleen Kabra and J&K DGP (Prisons) V.K. Singh.

“The committee is now in the process of determining categories of prisoners who will be considered for release on parole or interim bail after taking a view of the nature of offence,” said a government official. “For starters, the PSA detainees will be released.”

Under the PSA, an individual is booked for a period up to two years without a trial. So, releasing the PSA detainees is a bit more simple given that just the order needs to be revoked. “Prisoners serving time or undertrials have to be looked at more seriously,” the official added.

The move also comes at a time of growing concern among families of prisoners who fear they might contract Covid-19 owing to the fact that most of the jails are overcrowded.

Last week, politicians from the Valley, including National Conference MP Hasnain Masoodi, had also called for the release of Kashmiri prisoners, especially those booked in the wake of of the Article 370 move. Internet users in Kashmir have also demanded the release of the prisoners using the “Release Kashmiri prisoners” hashtag.

Also read:‘Exercise, exercise, exercise’ — out-of-detention Omar Abdullah’s guide to self-isolation


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