Jammu And Kashmir High Court Dismisses Plea Of Masood, 29 Others
6 September 2000
The Times of India
Dwarika Prasad Sharma
Jammu: In a neat case of the ''law taking its own course'', the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has dismissed a habeas corpus petition made in 1998 by Mohammed Masood Azhar and 29 other foreign mercenaries for their release and deportation. Masood Azhar was, however, taken from the Kot Balwal jail here to Delhi in December 1999, and then flown to Kandahar, along with two other militants, where they were swapped for the hostages held in the hijacked Indian Airlines plane. Justice O.P. Sharma, dismissing the petition as ''misconceived'', said all petitioners were foreign nationals and had no fundamental right to approach the court against their detention during trial. They, however, might be entitled to have the trial expedited. The petition was originally in the form of a letter written by Mohammed Shafiq Malik and 29 other detenus, including Masood Azhar, which was smuggled out of the Kot Balwal jail, where they were lodged, and delivered to the then chief justice, who treated it as a habeas corpus petition. The militants were from Pakistan, PoK and Afghanistan and had been held under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. The letter said they had been held ''without any case or either court order'', some for as long as seven years. It said during this period, they were also kept in the Army interrogation centre ''for a long period'', as also in various jails in and outside the state. The letter appealed to the chief justice to order their release and deportation as they had ''long since'' served out the normal detention period under the PSA, and that they should not be further detained by slapping other cases on them. The letter charged that several detenus whose release and deportation had been earlier ordered were, however, being held at police stations near the border, some for as long as three years. In its objection, the state government stated that the detainees in question had been involved in ''substantive offences'' and were being tried by the ''court of competent jurisdiction'' and that they were being held in jail by obtaining ''probe remand orders'' from the court.