New Delhi, Feb 27: The India-Pakistan judicial committee in its first meeting here has decided to release all prisoners belonging to one country but booked for "petty offences".
The committee on Tuesday directed officials of both countries to prepare and exchange lists of such prisoners before their next meeting in Islamabad, slated for mid-April. The eight-member joint judicial committee, which was constituted in March last year to look into the issue of Indian and Pakistani prisoners in each other's lockups, also held that women, children and those having lost their mental balance should be released forthwith. Significantly, the judges also held that those detained for holding arms, but with no proof of their being used would also come under the category of "petty crimes".
Other categories include inadvertent border crossing, fishermen crossing sea borders and citizens overstaying in the other country without visa extensions.
Justice (retired) Nasir Aslam Zahid, the Pakistani member of the committee, said this was a preliminary meeting to take stock of the situation and to provide a chance for foreign and home ministry officials of both countries to interact.
He said the Indian contingent of the committee would visit jails in Pakistan in mid-April, and the Pakistani contingent would do the same thereafter. Both countries have been accusing each other of maltreating their citizens in prisons, the Daily Times reported.
Last January, the Foreign Ministers of the two countries decided to set up a committee on prisoners comprised of retired superior judiciary judges to visit jails in each country and propose steps to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of prisoners.