The J&K High Court has allowed Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra, who was arrested in 2021 with charges framed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), to take oath as a District Development Council (DDC) member in south Kashmir’s Pulwama. He won the elections in 2020.
“The court deems it appropriate to observe that if there is no legal restriction or prohibition envisaged under the Panchayat Raj Act, 1989 read with Panchayat Raj Rules, 1996 in administering the oath of office to the petitioner by the Deputy Commissioner (DC), Pulwama, then the DC shall not default in carrying out the statutory duty of administering oath of office to the petitioner notwithstanding the pendency of the present writ petition,” J&K High Court judge Justice Rahul Bharti observed.
A copy of the court order has been marked both to the DC, Pulwama, and Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), J&K. The court has invoked Article 226 of the Constitution and directed the DC to administer oath of office to Mr. Parra, “being a statutory obligation rather duty upon the respondents [DC Pulwama and CEO] under Section 45 (B) of J&K Panchayat Raj Act”.
Mr. Parra, 33, considered close to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, contested the DDC polls in 2020 from U-Pulwama-1 constituency and won. However, his subsequent arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in November 2021 under UAPA made him unavailable to take oath even after being declared a successful candidate. Later, an NIA court granted bail to Mr. Parra on January 9, 2022. However, he was arrested immediately thereafter by the J&K Police’s Kashmir counterinsurgency wing in another case lodged in 2020.
The J&K High Court in May 2022 granted bail to Mr. Parra, who was facing charges under the UAPA. “Keeping in view the totality of the circumstances and the discussion, we are of the considered view that this [bail] appeal deserves to be allowed,” the court held. Mr. Parra was directed to make himself available before the Investigating Officer as and when required and was barred from leaving the Union Territory of J&K “without prior permission”.