The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has issued a notice to the Centre and sought its response by April 22 on a petition challenging the recent ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) in the state.
Acting on a petition by Mehraj Azeem (61), a former member of the Jamaat, a single bench of Justice Tashi Rabstan on Monday directed the Union Home Secretary to file response and objections to the petition by the next date of hearing on April 22.
The notice was accepted by Assistant Solicitor General Tahir Majeed Shamshi, who was present in the court.
The Centre in a notification issued on February 28 banned Jamat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir for five years under anti-terror law on grounds that it was "in close touch" with militant outfits and is expected to "escalate secessionist movement" in the state.
However, the petitioner's counsel, Syed Musaib, said the government did not follow the procedure while issuing the notification and the Jamaat was banned without giving it a chance to represent its case which was "violative of the constitutional safeguards".
"Even if a certain material is available with the respondents, the same would constitute an incriminating material against a single individual of the organisation and not against the organisation as a whole. The same has to be dealt in accordance with the law of land and could not be used to muzzle and gag an entire political organisation having decades of existence," the petitioner said.
He submitted that "bans are ineffective in contesting dissenting politics overtly, and are directly responsible for clandestine politics."
The petitioner's counsel while praying for setting aside of the ban order, submitted that free speech and right to form unions/associations was intrinsic in a democratic polity.
The council also challenged the constitution of the tribunal headed by a J&K High Court judge to decide if the Jamaat was an unlawful association, saying the Centre lacks the executive competence to enact such provision in respect of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The group has been banned for five years. It has to be ratified by a tribunal constituted by the Home Ministry.
The outfit, which was formed in 1945 as a chapter of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and separated in 1953 due to differences over political ideology with the parent body, was banned in 1990.
The previous ban lapsed in 1995 and since then it has never been invoked again.