‘Tendency to detain critics of govt’: J&K High Court quashes arrest of Kashmir Walla reporter

Sajad Gul was arrested in January 2022. The court also granted bail to his editor Fahad Shah.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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The arrest of Kashmir journalist Sajad Gul in January 2022 was part of a “tendency” by authorities to “detain the critics of the policies...of the government machinery” which is an “abuse of the preventive law”. 

There was also “no specific instance in any of the allegations levelled against him to show that he had been working against the national interests, so as to be prejudicial to the security of the state”.

This is what the Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court said in its order dated November 9 while quashing Gul’s detention. Gul, whose real name is Sajad Ahmad Dur, is a trainee reporter with The Kashmir Walla. He had been arrested and charged under the Public Safety Act last year for ostensibly posting a “video of family members and relatives raising anti-India slogans after the killing of their kin, a militant, in a gunfight in Srinagar”.

The court’s order, uploaded online by Bar and Bench, said the detention order was based on “vague grounds”. The detaining authority “has not applied its mind to draw subjective satisfaction to order prevention detention of the detenu by curtailing his liberty which is a valuable and cherishable right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution”.

While the J&K government alleged Gul’s tweets could be “used to provoke the people against the government”, the court said this cannot be grounds to claim a “true and factual media report can provoke people”.

Importantly, Gul had not been “provided all the relevant materials” – including a copy of witness statements and the FIR – that are required to make a “proper representation”, the court said.

The court therefore quashed the detention order and asked that Gul be released from preventive custody “if not required in any other case”.

Separately, on November 17, the high court had granted bail to The Kashmir Walla’s editor Fahad Shah and ordered his release. Shah had first been arrested in February 2022 on various terrorism charges and was eventually booked under the Public Safety Act. Read this piece in Newslaundry on how Shah’s arrest reveals a strange pattern in how Kashmiri journalists are targeted by the state.

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article image‘Narrative terrorism’: Chargesheet filed against Kashmir Walla editor, PhD scholar over 11-year-old article


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