726 people were detained under the Public Safety Act during the last two years, the government said on Friday.
At least 525 persons were detained under Public Safety Act (PSA) during 2016 while as 201 were detained during 2017, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said in a written reply to MLA Mubarak Gul’s query in the Assembly.
She further said that 124 of the 201 persons detained in 2017 had been released.
While quashing the detention of a Kashmiri youth under the Public Safety Act (PSA), Jammu and Kashmir High Court had last year observed that preventive detention cannot be used as an “instrument to keep a person in perpetual custody without trial.
Described as a lawless law by rights groups like Amnesty International, PSA allows for preventive detention for people against whom there may be no recognised criminal offence, providing for detention for a maximum of two years in the case of persons acting in any manner “prejudicial to the security of the state.”
The Act was first promulgated in 1978 by the Sheikh Abdullah government as an administrative detention aimed at keeping timber smugglers “out of circulation” but as various rights groups have pointed out, the Act has been used by the State over the past several decades to “curb political dissent.”
According to Amnesty’s 2010 report ‘A Lawless Law: Detentions under the Public Safety Act,’ at least 10,000-20,000 people had been detained under PSA in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir is holding hundreds of people each year without charge or trial in order to ‘keep them out of circulation’… the Public Safety Act (PSA) is used to secure the long-term detention of individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial,” according to the Amnesty report.
“The Jammu and Kashmir authorities are using PSA detentions as a revolving door to keep people they can’t or won’t convict through proper legal channels locked up and out of the way,” the rights group had said, adding “Hundreds of people are being held each year on spurious grounds, with many exposed to higher risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.”
Over 500 people were detained under PSA following the July 8 killing of Hizb Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani last year, according to media reports.