SC orders release, repatriation of 61 Pak prisoners

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New Delhi, Jan 12 (PTI) Expressing serious concern overtheir prolonged imprisonment, the Supreme Court today directedthe Centre to release and repatriate within four weeks 61Pakistani nationals languishing in jails in India despitehaving undergone their punishment for various offences.

The apex court said though India has a better trackrecord of treating cases pertaining to foreign nationals thanother countries, yet it needs to show some "urgency" in suchcases as even the foreign nationals are entitled to theprotection of Article 21(personal liberty).

The foreign nationals were arrested more than a decadeago on the charge of indulging in militant activities, bordercrossing, causing public breach and other offences. Thoughmost of them have served their sentence, they continue tolanguish in jails without being released or repatriated,according to a PIL filed by Bhim Singh of J&K Panthers Party.

It was alleged that government was not taking adequatesteps to provide them consular access to Pakistan HighCommission for their deportation.

A bench of justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha askedSolicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium to conductverification of the claims and pass necessary orders for theirrepatriation.

The bench asked the government to bring in a suitablemechanism to ensure that such foreign nationals are notforced to remain in jails as courts are being frequentlyflooded with complaints about Pakistani nationals beingincarcerated in jails despite having serving their sentence.

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"We deeply appreciated your efforts in this regard. But we feel a little more urgency is required in matters relatingto Article 21 (personal liberty).

"Our record in this regard is better than many othercountries. But we expect a sense of urgency," the bench saidwhen Subramanium submitted that the government has beenexamining each case individually and repatriating a largenumber of Pakistani nationals over the years.

However, the bench was not impressed with the argumentand commented "we are really shocked that it has taken yearsfor release of the prisoners even after they havesatisfactorily completed their sentence. This is a veryserious matter. We can''t overlook it. The deportation (of 61prisoners) must take place within 15 days," the bench said.

But the Solicitor General submitted that he needs timeto verify the allegation vis-a-vis the 61 Pakistani nationalsand gave an undertaking to the court that their cases would beverified and if found true would be released in the next fourweeks even without waiting for any formal order from thecourt.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing afterfour weeks.

Earlier, Gonzalves moved three separate applicationson behalf of the victims in which he alleged that 752Pakistani prisoners are languishing in various jails.

He submitted that out of these, 205 are awaitingrepatriation, 318 are awaiting consular access and 205 areawaiting confirmation of their nationality status.

According to the government, in pursuant of the court''sdirection it had so far repatriated 57 Pakistani prisoners.

But in the case of one Abdul Quadri Khwaja, Pakistangovernment has refused to take him since they feel he was anAfghan national.

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