The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to furnish a fresh status report on prisoners from Pakistan and Pak-Occupied Kashmir (POK) lodged in Indian jails and detention centres, who have either served their sentence or are not wanted under any law.
A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and A M Sapre said it was a long pending matter and it will dispose it of after examining the issue of how these prisoners can be deported back to their country.
The apex court asked the senior advocate and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) chief Bhim Singh and advocate A K Sanghi, appearing for the government, to come prepared by the next date of hearing on Tuesday on the point as how these prisoners, who have served their sentences and are not wanted under any law, can be deported.
Sanghi said filed five reports have been filed till now in the apex court with regard to the prisoners and, the last affidavit filed in April has said that 254 Pakistani prisoners and 17 fishermen were lodged in jails and detention centres.
Of these 254 prisoners, a total of 59 persons cannot be repatriated as their nationality has not been confirmed by the Government of Pakistan, he said.
Sanghi said the release of these 59 persons from detention centres will not be advisable in the interest of national security and they were kept at appropriate places with restricted movement, pending their repatriation.
The JKNPP leader said the detention of these Pakistani and POK prisoners in different centres and jails after they have served the sentence was violative of Article 21 of the Constitution and against the law of the land.
“59 prisoners whose sentence is over and no case is pending against them are detained in jails for past 10 years,” Singh said.
Sanghi said these prisoners were kept in detention centres following an earlier order of the apex court.
He said once their nationality is ascertained, they will be deported back to their country as they cannot be allowed to stay here and be a threat to the society.
The JKNPP leader further said that since it is a long pending matter, a day be fixed by the court for final disposal of the case.
To this, the bench asked if a person entered the country without valid document, then prosecution is launched. But what would happen to them after they serve the sentence.
Sanghi said these prisoners cannot just be sent back to Pakistan as there is a treaty between India and Pakistan under which the nationality of a particular person has to be ascertained first.
The court then asked the Centre that suppose at the given time, the said country does not agree that the person was their citizen, then what happens.
“Is there any law in this regard that if a country does not accept such a person as its citizen. You (Centre) file a fresh report with regard to such prisoners who have served their sentence and are not wanted under any law of the country and whose nationality has not been ascertained so far,” the bench said.
In its earlier affidavit before the apex court, government has said “the release and repatriation of Pakistani prisoners and fishermen lodged in jails/detention centres is governed by the provisions of the Agreement on Consular Access signed between the governments of India and Pakistan on May 21, 2008.”
“…the matter regarding the nationality confirmation of these 59 persons is being taken up regularly with the Pakistan High Commission through the Ministry of External Affairs and all these 59 persons can be repatriated as soon as their nationality is confirmed by the government of Pakistan,” the affidavit filed on April 19, 2016 said.
On August 12, the apex court had voiced concern over the fate of Pakistani nationals on their release from Indian jails after completion of their prison terms if Pakistan did not accept them as it citizens.
It had also asked the government to bring in a suitable mechanism to ensure that such foreign nationals are not forced to remain in jails, as courts are being frequently flooded with complaints about Pakistani nationals being incarcerated in jails despite having served their sentences.