Thursday, February 2, 2012

Govt to bring bill on PSA reforms

18 yrs clause to be included
Govt to bring bill on PSA reforms

The Government today finally decided to take Legislature route for making amendments in Public Safety Act (PSA). The Government would be introducing a bill on the PSA reforms in upcoming budget session of the Legislature beginning February 23.

Official sources told the Excelsior that the Government has decided against sending the draft on PSA back to the Raj Bhavan for issuing an ordinance. Governor NN Vohra had sent back the file in December on the ground that a Clause under which the youth from the State wouldn't be detained under the PSA if they were below the age of 18 years was objectionable as the same Clause was applicable for youth hailing from outside the State.

The Raj Bhavan had sought re-examination of the Clause on the ground that whether it would stand judicial scrutiny as it was against the Constitution, which guaranteed equality of law.

Sources said the Government after lot of deliberations has decided that it would directly introduce the legislation in the Assembly now instead of sending the file back to Raj Bhavan for issuance of an ordinance as only 20 odd days were left for start of the budget session.

‘‘The Government has preferred the Legislature route as it wanted to stick to the Clause of keeping 18 years as minimum age for detention under the PSA for the local youth of the State. However, there would be no age bar for detention of the youth under the PSA, who didn't belong to J&K and were involved in undesirable activities'', they said.

According to sources, if approved by both Houses of the Legislature, the bill again had to go to the Raj Bhavan for final nod. The Governor can return the legislation once but if it was again passed by the two Houses and sent to him for second time, he had to approve it.

Sources said the Government would explain to the Legislature that police could face some compulsions in detaining the youth even below 18 years of age under PSA if they were involved in militancy.

After the file was returned by the Governor early December, the Law Department after taking legal opinion had approved the file in similar form and sent it to the Home Department.

As the reforms in the PSA have been proposed by the Home Department, held by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the Government has now decided that it would be introducing the bill in the Assembly for approval of the House.

The new Public Safety Act (PSA), which has been part of the Government's `reforms', had no difference between citizens in other clauses.

‘‘It was only in this clause that minimum age bar of the youth of J&K for detention under PSA has been kept at 18 while there was no age bar for detention of non state-subjects'', sources said.

Other changes proposed in the PSA by the Government included that a Board constituted by the Government for confirmation of PSA, imposed by the District Magistrates and recommendations of the District SPs, would have to confirm or reject the PSA within six week instead of earlier term of eight weeks.

It proposed that the PSA would be imposed only for three months instead of one year in case of public law and order problem. However, it would be extendable up to a term of one year, if necessitated. However, in case of a threat to national security, the PSA would be imposed for a period of six months only instead of earlier term of two years. It would be extendable up to a period of two years.

Term of the chairpersons and members of the Advisory Board for the PSA would be for a period of three years extendable for two more years.

According to sources, the Government wanted to reform the PSA under which a number of Kashmiri youth, mostly stone pelters, had to be detained during 2010 summer unrest last year as well as last year to curb the incidents of stone pelting and street protests.

Sources said the Government wanted to reform the PSA as it was finding it difficult to get Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) withdrawn partially from four districts of the State in view of strong objections raised by the Army and endorsed by the Defence Ministry.

Sources said the Government might have kept a different yardstick for detaining youth even below 18 years of age under PSA anticipating that it might have to be applied on Pakistani militants if they sneaked to this side in the teen-age.

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