Kashmiri journalist Sajad Gul’s PSA detention quashed

SRINAGAR — The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir has quashed the detention of journalist Sajad Gul under Public Safety Act (PSA).

The court order comes day after the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir granted bail to Fahad Shah, a Kashmiri journalist and editor of The Kashmir Walla.

Sajad Ahmad Dar alias Sajad Gul, a resident of Baghat Mohalla Shahgund in Hajin Tehsil of Bandipora district was arrested from his home in January 2022 after he allegedly posted a video of family members and relatives of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant Salim Parray protesting against his death in an encounter on the outskirts of Srinagar.

The police dossier had claimed that Sajad Gul being ‘well educated’, could use the social media to provoke people against the government and that being a journalist, he ‘promoted enmity’ than reporting about the welfare of Jammu and Kashmir.

Sajad was a trainee reporter at The Kashmir Walla and a journalism student at the Central University of Kashmir at the time of arrest.

Sajad was booked under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505B (fear or alarm to the public) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

A local district court at Bandipora had granted bail to Sajad in January 2022 but he was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu.

The Public Safety Act (PSA) empowers the authorities to detain a person for a period upto two years.

A division bench of J&K High Court comprising Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice M A Chowdhary observed that the detention under PSA was based on ‘vague grounds’ and directed the authorities to release the Kashmir journalist.

The court had passed the order on November 9 but was made public only on Saturday, November 18, 2023.

“…The detaining authority, before passing the order, has not applied its mind to draw subjective satisfaction to order prevention detention of the detenu by curtailing his liberty which is a valuable and cherishable right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the order said.

The judges noted that Gul had not been given the three First Information Reports (FIRs) registered against him, copies of the dossier, statements of witnesses in the cases and other documents.

“In absence of providing the whole of the documentary record, the detenue cannot be said to be able to make an effective and meaningful representation against his detention which was his statutory as well as constitutional right,” the division bench added.

The grounds of detention, the judges said, do not indicate that Sajad Gul had ever uploaded any false story.

The order read that “It is nowhere stated as to how the detenue had disrupted the public order.” “In the grounds of detention, it has also been referred that the uploading of the news items by the detenue, as a journalist, had created enmity and acrimony against government machinery, however, there is no specific instance as to which of the posts/write ups are there as being so and on what date.”