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J&K HC Bar Association Extraordinary Chairman Nazir Ronga Arrested Under PSA

Nazir Ahmad Rongi, 75, the interim president of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, was arrested after a night raid at his home in Srinagar, the family said on Thursday.

Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association interim president Nazir Ahmad Ronga, 75, was arrested after a night raid at his home in Srinagar on Thursday. (HT file photo)

His son Umair Ronga, who is also a lawyer, said his father has been arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA). “He will be shifted to Kot Bhalwal jail in Jammu,” he said.

The police and administration have not yet issued a statement regarding the incident.

The arrest came a day after the Bar Association decided to proceed with the election process. It changed its controversial constitution after the government imposed restrictions on the association to hold elections. Since 2020, the government has opposed the Bar Association’s constitution, citing its “secessionist ideology.”

Umair said the police arrived at their home after midnight without a warrant. “My father NA Ronga, the chairman of the J&K High Court Bar Association, has just been arrested in a deeply disturbing turn of events. At 1.10 am, a team of J&K police arrived at our home without an arrest warrant, stating only, ‘Upar se order hai (This is an order from above),” he posted on X along with a video of the incident.

“We are shocked and deeply concerned. We can only hope that this is not another case of misuse of PSA to intimidate members of the J&K High Court Bar Association,” he said.

Ronga, who has practiced law for 45 years, served as president of the Bar Association for 12 years at various times. For the past four years, he has been ad hoc chairman of the Bar Association.

The arrest follows the arrest of former Bar President Mian Abdul Qayoom on June 25 in connection with the killing of advocate Babar Qadri outside his home in Srinagar’s Old Town in 2020.

Change of the bar statute

On Wednesday, the Bar Association issued a notice calling for nominations for the election of its officers, including president and vice president. “The date for scrutiny of forms, withdrawal of nominations and voting will be announced separately,” the notice said.

Last month, the district magistrate in Srinagar had imposed restrictions on holding elections to the association under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), citing the association’s alleged secessionist ideology.

The district judge said the restrictions were imposed because the association had failed to explain why its constitution calls “Kashmir a matter for adjudication.” The bar association had to postpone the elections from 2020 when the government filed an objection to the body’s stand.

“The Bar Association of the J&K High Court, Srinagar has been asked to clarify its stand in the matter as the above stand is not in accordance with the Constitution of India, which states that J&K is an integral part of the country and not a dispute, and is also against the Advocates Act, 1961, which governs the matter in administrative and legal matters,” the order issued in June said.

In response, the Bar Association sent a letter to the District Judge on July 5, stating that the JKHCBA was one of many political, social and non-governmental organisations, recognised under the law, that had invoked the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court against the constitutional amendments in August 2019. It said it had amended its constitution. The Bar Association reportedly deleted the paragraph that referred to “working for peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue”.

Midnight arrest condemned

Condemning Ronga’s arrest, Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said, “The cycle of violence continues unabated in J&K and also in areas where militancy has rarely taken place. Every day, soldiers are being tortured. The Indian government has not only failed to put an end to militancy but is also venting its frustration by launching brutal repression against defenceless Kashmiris. Nazir Ronga is the latest victim of its repressive measures,” she said.

The chief cleric of the Jamia Mosque, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, “condemned Rongi’s arrest at night from his home, issuing him a warning and shifting him to Kot Bhalwal.”