Srinagar: Senior Congress leader and former Union minister Saifuddin Soz hit out at the Jammu and Kashmir administration for telling the Supreme Court that he was “free and not under detention”.
“The J&K administration presented an affidavit where they say I am not detained. It is a white lie. They (administration) have the courage to speak the untruth in the highest court of India,” Soz told ThePrint over phone Thursday.
He added, “After the affidavit was presented and news came that the administration had told SC that I am free, I decided to go and meet my daughter but I was not allowed.”
A video report by NDTV showed Soz at his home, allegedly not allowed to move out of his residence where he has been under “detention” for over 10 months.
“I don’t know about today. Maybe they will allow me to move out today but my grouse is that after detaining me for nearly a year the administration has the guts to lie to the SC,” he said.
“Twice I left my home and that too after the police gave me permission. One was to visit my unwell sister and the second time to go for a health checkup. I have sufficient proof. If I was a free man, why wasn’t I allowed to move out? They are crushing my civil liberties every single day,” Soz said.
Sources in the administration, however, maintained it doesn’t have any formal detention order issued against Soz.
“We have a database of people who are detained or have been detained in the past and Mr Soz’s name is not in the list. I can assure you of this,” said a senior government official, who did not wish to be named.
Asked about the video of Soz being held back at his home by police, the official said, “We will have to check with the police but as far the administration goes, there is no detention order against Mr Soz.”
What the administration said in SC
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the J&K administration maintained that the senior Congress leader was “never detained nor under house arrest” and there were “no restrictions on his movement subject to security clearance”.
The administration said this in response to a petition filed by Soz’s family challenging his detention. It also told the court that Soz had travelled out of J&K on two occasions in October and December.
“There is no restriction on the movement of Professor Saifuddin Soz to any place, subject to security clearance which is contingent upon law and order and security situation of that area. Professor Soz has never been placed under any detention, as alleged,” said the affidavit filed by the Jammu and Kashmir home department.
The affidavit also called the petition filed by Soz’s wife as false, frivolous and baseless.
However, journalists present outside Soz’s residence in Srinagar recorded him not being allowed to move out of his home by his guards. “How can the government say in the Supreme Court that Soz is free when I continue to be under detention,” the politician told NDTV.
The Kashmir detentions
Politicians in Kashmir have been alleging that while there might be no formal detention to prevent an individual from venturing out of their residences, their security guards have been directed not to let them move out.
More than 6,000 people including politicians, lawyers and activists were detained or arrested ahead of the Narendra Modi government’s 5 August 2019 decision to withdraw J&K’s special status granted under Article 370 of the Constitution and divide the state into two union territories.
Several politicians, including three former CMs of the state — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — and with other top leaders of their parties, were detained and later booked under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA).
IAS officer-turned-politician Shah Faesal was also booked under the PSA. Other prominent leaders detained last year included Sajad Lone, PDP leader Naeem Akhtar and NC general secretary Mohammad Ali Sagar and his son Salman Sagar.
While these politicians were detained at various locations in Srinagar –Farooq Abdullah was detained at his home – an unknown number of politicians were placed under ‘house arrest’.
Many of them, including the Abdullahs and Shah Faesal, have since been released, while Mehbooba Mufti continues to remain under detention under the PSA.