By A Special Correspondent
First publised on 2020-08-01 19:43:21
Mumtazunnisa Soz, wife of former Union minister Saifuddin Soz, had filed a petition to secure her husband's release from house arrest in Srinagar. The Supreme Court heard the matter and was told by the Centre that Soz was not under arrest as no such orders have been issued either by the J&K administration or the Centre. That rendered the petition infructuous.
It is generally said that law is blind to everything except proof and evidence. It was proved in this case. Since the government has not issued any executive order calling for Soz's detention, it can easily claim that he is not under detention. Legally and technically, it did not lie in the Supreme Court (it cannot do so and all governments cover their backs regarding this), despite a section of the media claiming so. But there are many other ways that an administration can detain a person in his house.
The most common way is to provide him security cover citing threat to his life from terrorists. Once the security persons are posted at someone's home, it becomes almost impossible for him or her to leave the house without their 'permission'. They will always object to his movement citing the same threat. What the journalists assembled outside the Soz residence in Srinagar saw, clicked and recorded on video on Thursday, July 30 points to this.
When the journalists tried to enter the house to interview him, they were not allowed by the security detail. Then they saw that when Soz tried to speak to them from across the boundary wall, he was pulled away by a plainclothesman. Soz was also heard telling the person not to touch him as it was illegal. The government must understand that arresting a person does not only mean pinning him to his house. It also means not allowing him to have visitors and not allowing him to speak to the media. Has any administrative order been issued to prevent visitors or disallow him from talking to media persons?
The Centre or the J&K administration did not specify this in the Supreme Court hearing. Neither did the bench deem fit to ask these and other searching questions of the government. If Soz was free to step out of his house, free to travel, free to receive visitors and free to talk to the media, he would not be considered under house arrest. It would not then be necessary for his wife to file a petition seeking his 'release'.
But the very fact that she filed the petition should have raised a red flag in the minds of the bench. It should not have believed whatever the government told it and should have asked for further clarifications. Else, it should have asked Mrs Soz to elaborate on the matter. Perhaps, after the national media has flashed how Soz is being treated despite not officially being any kind of detention will make the government allow him true liberty. The process has already begun. Earlier today, the cops in Srinagar released a video to show him visiting his sister's house to 'prove' he is free.
It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs that an 84-year-old respectable citizen, a former Union minister and the leader of a national political party has to bear such ignominy. A huge number of political activists in J&K were put under detention just before or after the abrogation of Article 370. The government will have to release them sooner rather than later if it honestly wants to start the political process in the state. As for Saifuddin Soz, he is not a threat to the unity and integrity of the nation. The government must allow him to live in peace after a long and successful public life.