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Holding that liberty of a person should be taken seriously, the Supreme Court Friday directed the central government to immediately release Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian jails without justification.

Taking note of the “unreasonably long detention without justification”, the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.L. Gokhale directed the government that the “deportation order must be passed in their respect”.

“Liberty should be taken seriously,” the court said, adding that “you (government) should draw a schedule for the release of such prisoners”.

The court observation came on a petition of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh for release of Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian jails for long periods without trial or even after the expiry of their prison term.

“These are matters of human rights. We can’t go by technicalities,” Justice Lodha said when Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Parag Tripathi sought to raise objection on the submissions made by Bhim Singh.

Tripathi told the court that two of the four women, who Bhim Singh had alleged were languishing in jails without trial, were convicted under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, and were serving 10-year imprisonment in Amritsar jail. Both the women prisoners would be released May 10, 2016.

The court was told that the third women too was facing prosecution under several charges but was out on bail.

On four-and-half years old Baby Heena, Tripathi told the court that she could stay with her imprisoned mother up to the age of six years under the jail rules.

Holding that it could not pass any definite order unless it had firm commitment from Baby Heena’s mother, the court approved the home ministry’s advisory to the Punjab government to present the child before the child welfare committee set up under the Juvenile Justice Act.

“The child is precious and her welfare is paramount and non-negotiable,” the court said.

The court said that Baby Heena was innocent and was staying with her mother owing to peculiar circumstances.

“We have to be very strict. You say something off-the-cuff and we take it seriously. It is not fair on our part to call upon the government to respond to the facts that are entirely different,” the court told Bhim Singh.

“Nobody disputes your earnestness and dedication,” the court told Bhim Singh, saying that “most of the time your facts are not verified. You make a statement across the bar and ask for court order”.


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