The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration why it has not filed a reply on a plea filed by wife of a Malaysia-based NRI businessman challenging his detention following abrogation of provisions of Article 370. A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana observed that the matter relates to “personal liberty” and the Jammu and Kashmir administration should have filed its reply on the plea.

“Why you (J-K administration) have not filed the reply?” asked the bench which also comprises justices R Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, adding, “This is a matter regarding personal liberty. You should have filed the reply by yesterday.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Jammu and Kashmir administration, said he would file a reply on the petition during the day itself.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by Asifa Mubeen, wife of Mubeen Ahmad Shah, seeking quashing of the August 7 order of detention along with the grounds of detention under section 8(1)(a) of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978.

Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that superintendent of Agra jail, where Mubeen Ahmad Shah has been kept, has filed his reply on the petition and said the health of the businessman is fine.

The bench, however, said the affidavit filed by the jail superintendent is of October 4 and asked Mehta to tell the officer concerned to file a fresh report in this regard. The top court has posted the matter for hearing on October 24.

On September 20, the top court had asked Jammu and Kashmir administration to respond to the plea, which has sought a direction to authorities to produce the businessman before the court. In her plea, she has said that her husband is currently lodged at Agra Central jail and has been “wrongfully deprived” of liberty.

“The detenu (Shah), a senior and well respected citizen of India, a qualified doctor and leading NRI businessman based in Malaysia, with a serious medical illness, has been illegally deprived of his life and liberty for more than 40 days since August 5, 2019,” the plea has said.

The petitioner has said that Shah had come to Srinagar on April 18 to attend the last rites of his sister-in-law and continued to stay there since his father-in-law was unwell and passed away in July. The plea said since Shah was not keeping well during that period, he was admitted to a hospital in Srinagar in May.

“In the intervening night of August 4-5, 2019, the detenu (Shah) was arrested illegally without any warrant from his residence at Buchwara, Dalgate, Srinagar and taken to the local police station. At the time of the arrest, the detenu was not even informed about reasons and grounds of his arrest,” it has said.

The plea has said that Shah is suffering from multiple ailments, including acute renal problem which has aggravated during his time at Agra Jail. It has said the detained man has no criminal antecedents and has an “impeccable and unblemished record as a leading businessman of the valley.”

The plea also mentions the grounds, on which the detention was ordered, “are not grounds within the contemplation of the Public Safety Act, 1978 rendering in sequel thereto the detention of the detenu illegal and unconstitutional and hence liable to be quashed.”

“The impugned order of detention is vitiated in law for the grounds of detention of the detenu on the face of it are too vague and cryptic and do not answer any of the imperatives as contemplated under the J-K Public Safety Act, 1978 and as such is liable to be quashed,” it said, adding that grounds of on the face of it are “illusory.” It said the detention “violates with impunity the constitutional guarantees under Article 21 of the Constitution of India” of the detenu and is arbitrary and unsustainable in law.

According to estimates collected separately by Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, between 2,300 and 4,000 people have been detained from Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370. Officials said recently there had been “a few” detentions, to prevent disorder.

(With inputs from PTI)