Bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that the Look-Out Circular issued against him was a “mala fide exercise of power” and the government had furnished a false account of the circumstances leading to his arrest.
Faesal, who was stopped from flying abroad last month and sent to Srinagar where he was placed under confinement, told the court that issuance of LOC against him is “highly suspect exercise for which no reasonable ground is made out”.
Rebutting the claims of the Jammu and Kashmir government regarding the events of his arrest, he said that its version is “patently untrue”.
The government had stated that Faesal, who was taken from New Delhi to Srinagar late on August 14, “upon his arrival in Srinagar, while he was still accompanied with armed security officers, allegedly started to address a large gathering of people inside the arrival terminal and mobilising people, leading to the police allegedly making a report and an Executive Magistrate being brought in person to the airport itself”.
Responding to the account, Faesal stated: “Firstly, the version of the events is implausible because August 14, which is one day before Independence Day, there was exceptionally heavy security in every part of Srinagar, especially the airport.”
“The number of flights landing in Srinagar in the evening on the 14th, and the number of passengers travelling to Srinagar in the midst of current communication and transport blockades, is naturally very few, so there is no chance of any crowding in the airport… Therefore, it is truly inconceivable that there could have been any ‘large gathering’ of people.”
Faesal also noted that when the plane carrying the petitioner landed in Srinagar, all other passengers were made to wait on board till he made to disembark first, surrounded by special armed security forces, and handed over to security forces in Srinagar.
“Thereafter, the petitioner was surrounded by 10-15 security force personnel… the petitioner was whisked through the airport, put into the car, and taken directly to the detention centre in Srinagar.”
Faesal further stated that there was clearly no factual reason to prompt the alleged police report on the subsequent order of detention and the said order has been passed with “mala fide” intent in the absence of any production before a magistrate.
A division bench of Justices Manmohan and Sangeeta Dhingra Sehgal listed the matter for further hearing on September 12 as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was not available for advancing arguments in the matter.
On Faesal’s claim that he was going to the US for studies when he was detained, the state government had said that he had obtained a tourist visa and not a student visa.
In response, Faesal said that personal liberty and the right to travel abroad are guaranteed to the citizens of India under the Constitution and any visa-related issues are within the purview only of the government of the foreign country to which travel is sought.
The habeas corpus petition, filed by Faesal’s friend, sought the former bureaucrat’s release and contended that he was “illegally picked up” from the airport while on way to Harvard University where he was going to complete his fellowship.
“The circumstances of his illegal custody from the Delhi airport point to unlawful and illegal detention, which effectively amounts to abduction,” the plea said.
According to an immigration official, Faesal was stopped at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and sent back to Srinagar on another flight and detained there.
After his illegal detention in the intervening night of August 14-15, Faesal was “illegally whisked away to Kashmir against his wishes. No transit remand was sought in Delhi before taking him to Srinagar,” the plea said.
Faesal, who quit the Indian Administrative Service in January to form the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples’ Movement (JKPM), has been posting tweets and Facebook content highly critical of abrogation of Article 370 that gave special status to J&K, and split the state into two Union Territories.
On August 12, he had triggered controversy with his tweet that there would be “no Eid till the last bit of insult is avenged and undone” over what he termed as the “illegal annexation” of Kashmir.