Chairman J&K High Court Bar Association Nazir Ahmad Ronga arrested under PSA

SRINAGAR — Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association ad hoc chairman Nazir Ahmad Ronga, 75, was arrested after a midnight raid at his house in Srinagar, his family said on Thursday.

His son Umair Ronga, who is also a lawyer, said that his father has been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA). “He is being shifted to the Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu,” he said.

The police and administration are yet to issue a statement on the development.

The arrest comes a day after the Bar decided to go ahead with its election process. It had amended its controversial constitution after the government imposed restrictions on the association for conducting elections. Since 2020, the government has been objecting to the Bar’s constitution, citing its “secessionist ideology”.

Umair said that the police arrived at their home post midnight without a warrant. “My father NA Ronga, the chairman of the J&K High Court Bar Association, has just been arrested in a deeply disturbing turn of events. At 1.10am, a contingent of J&K Police arrived at our home without any arrest warrant, merely stating, ‘Upar se order hai (It’s an order from above),” he posted on X along with a video of the incident.

“We are in shock and profound distress. We can only hope this is not another instance of the PSA being misused to intimidate J&K High Court Bar Association members,” he said.

Ronga, who has been practising law for the past 45 years, served as Bar president for 12 years in multiple stints. For the past four years, he is the Bar’s ad-hoc chairman.

The arrest comes after the Bar’s former president, Mian Abdul Qayoom, was arrested on June 25 in connection with the killing of advocate Babar Qadri outside his house in Srinagar’s Old City in 2020.

Bar constitution amended

On Wednesday, the Bar association issued a notice, seeking nominations, for election of its office-bearers, including president and vice-president. “The date for scrutiny of forms, withdrawal of nomination and polling shall be notified separately,” the notice said.

Last month, the Srinagar district magistrate had imposed restrictions on conducting elections to the association under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), citing its alleged secessionist ideology.

The district magistrate had stated that the restrictions were being imposed as the association failed to clarify why its constitution called ‘Kashmir an issue to be settled’. The Bar has had to postpone its elections since 2020 when the government had raised objection to the body’s stand.

“The J&K High Court Bar Association, Srinagar, was asked to explain its position on the subject since the above stand is not in congruence with the Constitution of India, whereby J&K is an integral part of the country and not a dispute, and also it is in conflict with the Advocates Act, 1961, which governs the subject vis-å-vis administrative and legal points,” the order issued in June said.

In response, the Bar sent a letter to the district magistrate on July 5, saying that the JKHCBA was one among many political, social and non-governmental organisations, recognised under the law that had invoked the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court against the constitutional changes in August 2019. It said that it had amended its constitution. The Bar had reportedly dropped the paragraph where it talked about “working towards a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue”.

Midnight arrest condemned

Condemning Ronga’s arrest, Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said: “The cycle of violence continues unabated in J&K and that too in areas which rarely witnessed militancy. Every day soldiers are being martyred. The Government of India has not only failed to end militancy but is also venting its frustration by launching a vicious crackdown on helpless Kashmiris. Nazir Ronga is the latest victim of its oppressive actions,” she said.

Jamia Masjid chief cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq “denounced the nocturnal arrest of Ronga from his home, slapping of PSA on him and shifting him to Kot Bhalwal”. — (HT)