The Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978, of Jammu & Kashmir is an administrative detention law that allows detention of any individual for up to two years without a trial or charge. The Public Safety Act allows for the arrest and detention of people without a warrant, specific charges, and often for an unspecified period of time.
But in some cases, the Act makes provisions for the detained person to be informed about the reason of custody, and also gives them an opportunity to make a case against their detention to the government. However, the detaining authority is not required to reveal any facts “which it considers being against the public interest to disclose”. This Act extends to the whole of Jammu & Kashmir.
The PSA permits administrative detention for up to two years “in the case of a person acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state”, and for up to a year where “any person is acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”. A detention order under the PSA is issued either by the Divisional Commissioner or District Magistrate.
After the amendments were made to the PSA in 2012, the detention of a person below the age of 18 was strictly prohibited under this Act. According to Section 22, “no suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith” under the PSA. An individual detained under the PSA shall be produced before the magistrate within 24 hours.
The Advisory Board is a non-judicial body established under Section 14 of the PSA to review detention orders and determine whether there is sufficient cause for detention.
Why is PSA in the news?
Former Jammu & Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were booked under the stringent PSA by the administration on February 6, 2020. National Conference general secretary and former minister Ali Mohammed Sagar, senior PDP leader Sartaj Madani was booked under the PSA. Earlier, on September 16, 2019, ex-CM Farooq Abdullah was detained under the provisions of PSA. Ironically, the Act was first promulgated in 1978 during the chief ministerial tenure of Sheikh Abdullah, father of Farooq Abdullah. Many political leaders and parties have condemned their detention and termed the PSA as a ‘draconian Act’.