Pakistani prisoners and the Indian law

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SC slams India’s tit-for-tat tactic on Pak prisoners

From the archives of The Times of India 2010

Orders Release Of 16 Inmates

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

New Delhi: Holding that India lay great store in right to life, the SC on Monday ordered the government to immediately release 16 Pakistani prisoners who had completed their jail terms despite the Centre’s argument that it was waiting for Islamabad to let off a similar number of Indian prisoners.

Commenting adversely on UPA’s decision to put on hold the release of 16 Pakistanis even though they had completed their prison term in various state jails, a bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and R M Lodha said right to life had primacy in a country governed by rule of law and was not dependent on another country’s action. It refused to accept Centre’s stand that exchange of prisoners was a diplomatic process that required cooperation at both ends.

“Under the Constitution, detention even for a second beyond the permitted period of sentence is illegal. Now you (Centre) are putting a condition that until they return a similar number of prisoners we cannot send them back. If Pakistan does not do something right, does that mean we should also follow them,” the bench said. A petition filed by J&K Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh and advocate B S Billowriya had alleged that over 30 Pakistanis were illegally detained in prisons in Agra, Jodhpur, Naini, Sangrur, Varanasi and Tihar despite completion of their sentences.

The 16 persons ordered to be released on Monday are Mohammad Ajmal, Mehrban Sathi, Mohammad Nawaz, Sajad Ali Jat, Shabir Ahmed, Shahzad Gul, Shahid Mehmood, Qudrat Ullah, Mohammad Farooq Raja, Dawood Ahmed Mughal, Faiz Ali, Mohammad Usman Shiksh, Zarar Baloch, Shahid Latief, Suhail Ahmed Kataria and Sher Khan. They have already been provided travel documents by Pakistan.

Petitioner Bhim Singh requested the bench to order expeditious completion of trial of rest of the Pakistani prisoners even as Centre informed the court that it had extended consular access to Pakistani high commission officials for establishing the identity of the prisoners. It invited a strong rebuke from Justice Katju, who said, “It’s easy to say complete trial within one year but you must understand our problem. In India there is great shortage of judges. We are performing under great pressure.”

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