Kashmiri journalist Asif Sultan, one of first media professionals booked under a stringent anti-terror law, was released from jail after being incarcerated for over five years, reported The Independent on Thursday.

The paper said he was released on Tuesday following a delay of over two months after the Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed his detention due to procedural lapses.

Sultan had been incarcerated for over five years in a jail in Uttar Pradesh’s Ambedkar Nagar district. His continued detention even after the High Court’s decision was attributed to the pending arrival of “clearance letters” from the home department and the Srinagar district magistrate.

In September 2018, Sultan was detained under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), accused of offering logistical aid to a prohibited militant organisation. Four years later, on April 5, 2022, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court approved his release on bail, citing the investigative agencies’ inability to prove his association with any militant group.

However, just four days after this decision, the district magistrate of Srinagar ordered his detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

On December 11, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court annulled Sultan’s detention under the PSA, stating that the necessary procedural steps were not adequately followed.

According to this law, individuals can be detained without trial for up to two years for national security reasons and up to a year to maintain public order. Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul noted that the authorities seemed to consider the case against Sultan under the anti-terror law while detaining him under the Public Safety Act, but failed to provide him with essential documents like the FIR or statements recorded under Section 161 of the criminal procedure.

This omission prevented Sultan from effectively challenging his detention order.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

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