The Supreme Court Tuesday said that Pakistani nationals who are languishing in Indian jails long after completing their jail sentences could not be deprived of their dignity and rights, and can no longer be considered prisoners.
A bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.R. Gokhale said this after the central government informed it that 37 Pakistani nationals who had completed their jail sentences in 2007, 2008 and 2009 were still incarcerated because Pakistani authorities have not so far confirmed their nationality.
The court directed the full treatment of the 21 Pakistani nationals who were stated to be mentally challenged.
“The 21 people who are mentally challenged have to be given proper medical and health assistance in suitable government hospital or in the hospitals or clinics run by the NGOs,” the court said in its order.
“It will suffice to say that these 37 people must be released formally from the jails and having regard to national security, may be kept at an appropriate place with movement restricted pending their repatriation/deportation,” the court ordered.
Saying that whatever may be the reason for delay in their repatriation involving the non-confirmation of their nationality, the court said, “We don’t even have a slightest doubt that their continued imprisonment is uncalled for.”
Directing the government to shift these prisoners to some other place or detention centre where they can have some restricted mobility, the court in its order said: “In no way these 37 Pakistanis can be treated as prisoners once they have served their sentences.”
“It is true that until their nationality is confirmed, they can’t be repatriated and have to be asked to remain here. During this time they can’t be deprived of their human rights and human dignity,” Justice Lodha said in the order pronounced by him.
The order said it was “indeed unfortunate” that these 37 Pakistani prisoners who have completed their sentences and are not required by India under its law are in jail because their nationality has not been confirmed.
The court noted that these prisoners were granted consular access to the Pakistani high commission just a few months before their actual release.
The court also asked the Gujarat government to make similar arrangements for 11 Pakistani fishermen in its jails against whom no offence has been registered.
The court asked the government to ensure that the exercise for the confirmation of the 37 people’s nationality is completed expeditiously.
It observed, “We have no doubt that Pakistan high commission will complete the exercise as early as possible.”
When it was told that there was one centre in Delhi and another in Amritsar where these prisoners could be lodged, the court said: “What is important is not the location where these 37 people would be lodged, but we must have basic amenities and adequate provision for their stay.”
The court also inquired if the two places mentioned by Additional Solicitor General P.P. Malhotra had all the facilities and space to accommodate them. “Are you sure if there are reasonable facilities,” Justice Lodha inquired.
The court directed the listing of the matter after four weeks.