New Delhi, July 30: The Supreme Court Wednesday disposed of a plea by the wife of Jammu and Kashmir Congress leader Saifuddin Soz claiming that he had been illegally detained, with the government submitting that he was never detained or put under house arrest.
A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and M R Shah said it would not enter into the question any further, The Indian Express reported.
In her plea, Soz’s wife Mumtazunnisa had said he had been detained since August 5 last year, when the special status of J&K was abrogated, and the grounds for his arrest had not been furnished till date. She said this amounted to “depriving the detenu of his fundamental right of making effective representation guaranteed” under the Constitution and laws.
Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone from his house in Srinagar, Soz, 83, said he had tried to leave even on Wednesday. “I am at the gate, I wanted to visit my daughter and I am not being allowed by the police,” he said. “They say they haven’t received any order (regarding letting him out). When will they receive the order?”
Appearing for Mumtazunnisa, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said though the J&K administration affidavit claims Soz is not illegally detained, this was contrary to facts.
Calling Soz a “categorised protectee”, the J&K administration said in its affidavit that Soz “never was under any detention” and that “no restriction whatsoever has been placed on (his) movement”.
Disposing of Soz’s wife’s plea, Justice Shah drew Singhvi’s attention to paragraph 10 of the document submitted by the J&K administration. As per the paragraph, “it is submitted that none of the constitutional, fundamental or statutory rights of Prof. Saifuddin Soz have been violated or infringed”. It added that the claims “in respect of house arrest/detention of Prof Saifuddin Soz are false, frivolous and baseless as he has not been detained at all, let alone under provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978, as alleged”.
The J&K government submitted that as “a categorised protectee”, Soz “is provided with round the clock armed guards and Personal Security Officers”. “Further, whenever he goes out for his personal, political or official assignments, he travels in Government Bullet Resistant vehicles with other Government vehicles”.
About measures after Article 370 was abrogated, the affidavit said Soz had been advised “not to visit vulnerable areas”. However, it said, the government provided him proper security cover “as and when… he conveyed his program for visit to (a) local area”.
On who could visit Soz, the administration said, “There is no restriction on any guests to (the) house, subject to proper checking… by the access control security deployed at his residence.”
The affidavit also submitted that Soz had travelled outside J&K “on several occasions”, listing three flights — on October 20, December 15, and December 20, 2019 — between Srinagar and New Delhi.
In her plea, Mumtazunnisa said Soz had been “placed under house arrest in an unlawful and manifestly illegal exercise of powers”. She said the copy of “the impugned order(s) of detention was not provided to the detenu within the statutory period, and even after that, for a period of ten months”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Soz said the only official word he had received on his “detention” was what the group commander (of the security at his residence) had told him verbally on August 5 last year — “that I can’t go out and that I am under house arrest”. “When I asked for a copy of the order, he said these days everything is being done verbally.”
Soz said he had also talked to the SSP, Security. “He was clueless or he didn’t want to tell me. He asked me to talk to higher-ups. Now I am going to call (DGP) Dilbagh Singh.”
Soz said it was worse than being in jail as officially he was “a free person”. “At least in jail they will give you something in writing and you can go to court.”