SC for govt response on release of Indian prisoners in Pak

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New Delhi, Feb 18 (UNI) The Supreme Court today sought the response of the Centre on a petition seeking directions to the Union government to make efforts through diplomatic channels for release of a person who is in Pakistani jail for about 24 years.

The prisoner Gopal Das was apprehended by Pakistan Rangers in July, 1984 when he mistakenly crossed over to the Pakistan territory.

A bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran, however, refused to issue notice at this stage on the petition of Anand Vir, brother of Gopal Das.

The petitioner, in his petition, filed through his brother has said that there are about 182 such prisoners languishing in Pakistani jail.

Gopal Das was charged with espionage and was sentenced to life imprisonment on June 30, 1986 by the Field General Court Martial at Sialkot Cantonment. Gopal Das has already completed the life sentence and the Pakistan Government is illegally detaining him without any charge or trial.

The petitioner has made several representations to the authorities including the Indian Government but to no avail.

The court directed the Solicitor General of India to tell the court within four weeks about the steps being taken by the Indian Government to secure the release of Gopal Das and other prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails for long years without any trial or charges.

The prisoner has also written a letter on October 15, last year, to NHRC New Delhi for his release.

According to the petitioner's brother, illegal detention violates the most important fundamental right, right to life.

According to the petitioner, Pakistan Government had decided to release Gopal Das on August 14, last year but the Indian government has not taken any action to get the petitioner released from Pakistani jail at Mianwalli.

He said his release can be secured only through diplomatic channels.

According to the petitioner, no steps have been taken by the Indian government for his release as well as other prisoners who have either mistakenly crossed over to Pakistan or have been lured away by travel agent on false promise of providing them with job in the European countries by crossing the Pakistan border.

He also contended that the Indian government is duty bound to protect and safeguard the fundamental rights of Indian citizens.

The petitioner has been writing to the Ministry of External Affairs since 1998 without any response from the Indian government.

UNI AKS/SC BDP RP DS1644

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