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After 5 years, Jammu and Kashmir High Court Quashes Detention Order Against Journalist Asif Sultan

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has quashed the preventive detention order against Kashmir-based journalist Asif Sultan Saida. The court found that the Srinagar District Magistrate failed to provide sufficient detention records and evidence, thereby impeding Asif Sultan’s right to appeal the order effectively.

Justice Vinod Chatterjee Koul, in a ruling, directed the Jammu and Kashmir administration to release Asif Sultan from preventive detention unless he is required in any other case. Asif Sultan has been incarcerated since August 27, 2018.

The Court said, “It is unambiguously clear and evident from the perusal of the receipt of grounds of detention & other relevant record that only five leaves have been given to the detenu.”

The court said that Asif Sultan was denied copies of crucial documents such as the FIR, witness statements, and other investigation records related to the criminal case forming the basis of his preventive detention under the Public Safety Act.

Justice Koul’s directive was unequivocal: “respondents to set the detenu at liberty forthwith provided he is not required in any other case.”

Asif Sultan’s detention stemmed from accusations of his involvement in a 2018 criminal case, including charges of ‘harnessing known militants,’ ‘criminal conspiracy,’ and ‘aiding and participating in militant activities.’

Aasif Sultan, associated with the now-defunct monthly magazine ‘Kashmir Narrator’ at the time of his arrest, was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and various other sections of the erstwhile Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), now replaced by the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The court’s decision comes after Asif Sultan was granted bail in the UAPA case by a Srinagar Court last year, only to be detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA). In 2019, he received the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award from the American National Press Club.

The court opined, “It is only after the detenu has all the said material available that he can make an effort to convince the detaining authority and thereafter the Government that their apprehensions vis-à-vis his activities are baseless and misplaced.”

This development follows the recent quashing of preventive detention orders against Kashmiri journalist Sajad Ahmad Dar, also known as Sajad Gul, by the High Court.

Additionally, journalist and editor Fahad Shah was granted bail in a UAPA case related to the publishing of an article on The Kashmir Walla news portal in 2011.

Read the full order here.

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