SC asks Centre to rehabilitate Pak prisoners

Of the 37 languishing in various jails, 21 are mentally challenged

The Supreme Court on Tuesday described the continued detention of 37 Pakistani prisoners even after the completion of their sentences as “unfortunate” and directed the government to send them to “Sewa Sadan” equipped with all basic facilities.

A bench of Justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale also asked the Gujarat government to provide similar treatment to 11 Pakistani fishermen, arrested for straying into Indian waters, and remand them to detention homes.

The court also said it expect the Pakistan High Commission would provide all help in identifying the prisoners’ nationality in order to deport them back to their country.
Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra, appearing for the Centre, told the court that the repatriation of the prisoners could not take place as the Pakistan government failed to confirm their nationality.

“We have no doubt that the Pakistani High Commission will complete the exercise as early as possible. Whatever may be the reason for the delay, we have no doubt that their continuing imprisonment is unfortunate.

In no way the 37 Pakistani prisoners can be treated as prisoners once they have served out their centres. It is true that until their nationality is confirmed, they cannot be repatriated and have to remain here. But during this period they cannot be deprived of their human rights and human dignity,” Justice Lodha said.

Of the 37 Pakistani prisoners, 21 are said to be mentally challenged. Most of the 21 prisoners have completed their sentence in 2007-2009, but their nationality has not been confirmed by Pakistan, though consular access was provided to them by India a few months before completion of their sentences.

The court asked the government to keep these prisoners in detention homes at Delhi or Amritsar. The bench was hearing a PIL filed by Jammu & Kashmir Panthers’ Party leader Bhim Singh challenging the prolonged incarceration of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails despite having completed their sentence.

The court on January 24 expressed its displeasure over the “laxity” and “lethargy” of the Central government in dealing with the issue of prisoners from Pakistan and other countries languishing in Indian jail even after completion of their sentences.

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