Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Friday revoked the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) against former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, a five-time parliamentarian and a member of the present Lok Sabha, with immediate effect. The decision was hailed by political leaders across the spectrum.
According to an order issued by the Union Territory's home secretary Shaleen Kabra, the PSA ordered by the district magistrate of Srinagar on September 15 and subsequently extended for three months on December 13, stands revoked.
Abdullah, a National Conference leader, was under preventive detention since August 5 last year, the day the Centre abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. He was the first chief minister against whom the PSA was invoked.
On Friday, Abdullah thanked parliamentarians who "fought for my freedom" from detention and said he would be able to take a decision on future only after other leaders are released.
"I am free... Hope others political leaders would be released soon. Thank all parliamentarians who fought for my freedom. Will be able to take decision on future only after other leaders are released," he said.
The stringent Act was slapped against him on September 15, hours before the Supreme Court was to hear a petition by MDMK leader Vaiko who claimed that Abdullah had been illegally detained.
He was booked under 'public order' of the PSA, a provision that allows authorities to detain a person for three months without trial. This can be extended up to two years.
The decision to release the National Conference patron came hours ahead of the ending of the three-month period on Friday midnight.
Immediately after his release, the National Conference issued a statement welcoming the decision and also urged the Union Territory administration to release other political leaders including party vice president and former chief minister Omar Abdullah.
According to the NC statement, the release of its patron from detention was the right step towards restoration of a genuine political process in Jammu and Kashmir.
Officials said District Magistrate Shahid Iqbal Choudhary entered the residence of Abdullah, who underwent an eye surgery earlier this week, and is believed to have handed over the release order to him.
Farooq Abdullah's son Omar as well as former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti were slapped with the PSA on February 6, the day on which their six-month term of preventive detention was to end.
Leaders Hail Revocation of Stringent Act
In New Delhi, political leaders welcomed the revocation of the stringent PSA imposed on Abdullah.
While Abdullah's party, the National Conference (NC), termed his release a "step in the right direction towards restoring genuine political process in Jammu and Kashmir", former Union minister and senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said he welcomed Abdullah's "belated release".
"...I hope he will soon resume his rightful place on the front bench of the Lok Sabha, where he can address with his usual compelling vigour the issues facing his state and the state of the nation. His detention was a disgrace," Tharoor said in a tweet.
Iltija Mufti, daughter of incarcerated People’s Democratic Party president and former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti demanded the release of all those detained following revocation of the special status of the erstwhile state under Article 370 of the Constitution.
"Time to release all detainees including thousands of young men languishing in jails outside J&K. This has gone on for far too long & must end now," Iltija tweeted.
Senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said Abdullah's release was long overdue. "The imposition of PSA on and detention of Dr Farooq Abdullah was illegal, undemocratic and unconstitutional. We have all been concerned about his health and wellbeing. His release was long overdue".
The CPI(M) in Jammu and Kashmir described Abdullah's release as a "step to correct one wrong among many wrongs".
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee said she prayed for the long life of Abdullah and hoped that the other two former chief ministers -- Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti -- will soon be released and "allowed to join the democratic process immediately."
Another senior Congress leader Saral Patel said Abdullah should have been released a long time back.
"...but nonetheless, better late than never, hoping that Omar too will be released soon. Democracy is about having dialogues, not about locking up people unilaterally just because they don't agree with you," Patel tweeted.
People's Conference also welcomed the release of the Lok Sabha member from Srinagar.
"We welcome the release of Dr Farroq Abdullah. And I take this opportunity to demand the release of our Chairman Mr Sajjad Lone. He is under strict house arrest after being in detention at MLA hostel for six months. We also demand release of our workers who r detained under PSA," general secretary of PC and former minister Imran Reza Ansari said in a tweet.