India News

J&K Journalist Fahad Shah Booked Under Public Safety Act a Day Before Bail Hearing

Fahad Shah, editor of The Kashmir Walla

A day before his scheduled bail hearing on a UAPA charge, the Jammu and Kashmir Police invoked the Public Safety Act against Fahad Shah, the founding editor of The Kashmir Walla, on Monday.


“Sensing that the Hon’ble Special Court may grant the bail as the allegations levelled against the accused does not prima facie connect him with the commission on any offence the authorities have taken recourse to J&K Public Safety Act,” wrote Shah’s legal counsel Umair Ronga.

The Public Safety Act, 1978, of Jammu Kashmir is an administrative detention law under which an individual can be detained for up to two years without any trial or charge. The Act also allows for the arrest of an individual without a warrant or specific charges and often for an unspecified period.

The 33-year-old journalist was awaiting bail hearing after being arrested for the third time in a month, each time shortly after being granted bail.

Shah was initially arrested on February 4 by the Pulwama police under the anti-terror law and sedition charges. However, he was granted bail 22 days later by a special court. Shortly after this, he was again arrested, this time in Shopian, in relation to a case filed by the Indian Army in January 2021 against two news portals, including The Kashmir Walla, for reporting that a local army unit forced an Islamic seminary school in Shopian to hold Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

Recently, on March 5, Shah was granted bail in this case. But, hours later, he found himself arrested again in relation to a new FIR registered by the Srinagar Police.

This third FIR was filed in relation to a story published by The Kashmir Walla about a May 2020 encounter in Srinagar, quoting family members of one of the deceased denying claims made by the police. He was once again booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, making it the second time the UAPA had been invoked against him in 37 days, as per Ronga.

On Friday, Shah was remanded to police custody for five days and his bail hearing was scheduled for Tuesday. However, a day before this, the J&K Police has invoked the Public Safety Act against the journalist.

Shah founded the online magazine, The Kashmir Walla, in 2009. He has also featured in reputed international publications, including Foreign AffairsTIME, and Foreign Policy, and is a winner of the 25th Human Rights Press Awards (2021) for explanatory feature writing for his coverage of communal violence in Delhi in February 2020.


Recently, a three-member Fact-Finding Committee (FFC) of the Press Council of India observed that the media in Jammu and Kashmir is “slowly being choked” due to the extensive curbs imposed by the local administration.

In its report, the committee which was formed by the PCI six months ago, said that “writing against government policies, or quoting a family or civilian sources in a story about excesses of the armed forces, or tweeting a point of view” could not be labelled as ‘fake news’ or ‘anti-national activity’ and lead to the arrest of a journalist for sedition. It added that it is not the business of journalists to support government policies or development work but rather to report the news as it happens.

The report further noted that it was concerning that the public relations work of government departments appears to have been taken over by the police.