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India: Reform of Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act Proposed

(Mar. 25, 2011) The international human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) has called on India to respect the rights of its people and stop the practice of carrying out arbitrary detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA, Act No. 6 of 1978, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Refworld website (last visited Mar. 23, 2011)). Sam Zarifi, AI Asia-Pacific Director, recently said, “[t]he use of administrative detention does not conform to international human rights legal obligations and agreements that the Indian government is a party to. … The Indian government must ensure that Jammu and Kashmir authorities repeal the PSA and end the odious system of administration detention once and for all.” (Jammu and Kashmir: Hundreds Held Each Year Without Charge or Trial, AI website (Mar. 21, 2011) (includes link to fuller report).)

According to AI estimates, thousands of people have been held without trial in the last 20 years in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir; 322 of those in the months from January to September, 2010. (Id.) The PSA applies only to that state, which has seen internal conflict since its inclusion in India and has been the object of a dispute between India and Pakistan since 1947. (Sarah Paulsworth, Rights Group Urges India to Reform Kashmir Detention Law, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Mar. 21, 2001).)

The PSA permits the authorities to detain individuals without judicial intervention for up to two years; AI has charged that the state is using the detention provisions to lock up people, including political leaders and suspected supporters of armed opposition groups, in cases where there is not enough evidence for formal conviction and that many are subject to ill treatment and not given access to legal counsel. Zarifi pointed out that the “PSA undermines the rule of law and reinforces deeply held perceptions that police and security forces are above the law.” (AI, supra.) In this last allegation, the Indian Supreme Court concurs, describing administrative detention generally as “lawless law.” (Id.)