SC fixes final hearing on writ petition against detention of Pak & POK prisoners in India

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising JJ Hon’ble Mr. J. Chelameswar & Mr. Anay Manohar Sapre ordered final hearing on the writ petition filed by Prof.Bhim Singh, Sr.Advocate of Supreme Court against the illegal, improper and unconstitutional detention of nearly 250 Pak and POK prisoners languishing in Indian jails for over a decade.

Prof.Bhim Singh questioned the authority of the agreement on Consular Access signed between Govts. of India and Pakistan on 21.05.2008. Prof.Bhim Singh argued that Article 21 of Constitution of India cannot be shadowed or camouflaged by any executive order or authority. Article 21, he argued provides, “No person shall be deprived of his (her) life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

Prof.Bhim Singh said that any agreement or declaration made by any executive authority cannot override the authority of this command of Article 21. He said that this right of personal liberty is vested in every person (citizens of any country and all human beings) including foreigners.  

Prof.Bhim Singh said that Consular Access signed between India and Pakistan on 21.05.2008 cannot be accepted and does not pass the test of human rights as enshrined in Article 21.

Prof.Bhim Singh strongly argued for the release of 59 persons who have completed their sentence or against whom no offence has been registered but nationality has not been confirmed. He regretted that 59 prisoners stated to be, 59 Pakistani prisoners who have completed their sentence/offence not registered but nationality not yet confrmed are lodged in different jails/prisons and some of them in the detention centres in Delhi, Alwar (Rajasthan), U.P., Amritsar (Punjab), Bhuj JIC (Interrogation Centre) in Bhuj (Gujarat) and some of them are lodged in jails in J&K and Rajasthan. Prof.Bhim Singh said that Supreme Court direction to shift all prisoners from jails to detention centres has not been followed in totality.   

Supreme Court of India instructions/orders on the Pak prisoners not (other than under trials or convicts) dated 28.02.2012 issued by the Supreme Court in writ petitions (crl.) no.310/2005 & 82/2010 the Supreme Court had issued clear direction to the Union of India that,“It is indeed unfortunate that these 37 Pakistani prisoners who have been served out their sentence and are not required under Indian laws have been kept injail because their nationality has not been confirmed. Whatever may be the reason for delay in confirmation of their nationality, we have not even slightest doubt that their continued imprisonment is uncalled for. In no way, these 37 Pakistani prisoners can be treated as prisoners once they have served out their sentence. It is true that unless their nationality is confirmed, they cannot be repatriated and have to be kept in India but until then, they cannot be confined to prison and deprived of basic human rights and human dignity.”

The number of 37 has gone up to 59 according to the latest counter affidavit filed by the Union of India as mentioned above. The Union of India as well as the State of J&K have violated this order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and several Pak & POK prisoners are being treated in jails in J&K, Rajasthan and in some other jails. In spite of the clear direction of Supreme Court that,

“However, suffice it to say that these 37 persons have to be formally released from jail immediately and be kept at appropriate place with restricted movements pending their deportation/repatriation. The places where they are to be kept—detention centres or by whatever name such places are called—must have basic facilities of electricity, water and hygiene.”

Prof.Bhim Singh said the both the Union of India and respective states have violated the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Prof.Bhim Singh said that in pursuance of the direction of Supreme Court, Foreign Office (Director-Foreigners) issued most immediate direction to the Principal Secretaries (Home) of all State Govts.,Union Territories administration etc. in reference to the orders of the Supreme Court in Bhim Singh’s writ petition. This order of Govt.of India was issued on 07.03.2012 which clearly directed all States that, “Release be ensured that all foreign nationals who have completed their sentence but whose deportation/repatriation is awaited due to non-confirmation of nationality/issue of travel documents by the country concerned maybe released from jails immediately and they maybe kept as appropriate place outside the jail premises with restricted movement pending their repatriation. It was made clear that this shall be done under the powers delegated to the State Govts. under Section 3(2) (e) of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and under paragraph 11 of the Foreigners Order, 1948.”

It was clearly instructed that foreigners so released must be kept in safe custody with basic facilities of electricity, water and hygiene with full security.

The Govt. of India, the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreign Division) issued another instruction on 01.09.2014 directing the States/Union Territories to set up detention centres/holding centres/camps in various states/union territories for restricting the movements of illegal immigrants/foreign nationals awaiting deportation after completition of their sentences. Prof.Bhim Singh said that the Central Govt.has failed in this regard to take appropriate actions/remedies to ensure that the foreign nationals are repatriated to their respective countries.

Prof.Bhim Singh said that more than 15 foreign nationals have been sentenced for life and paid that their appeals maybe heard by the Supreme Court and those who have completed more than 15 years maybe sent back to their respective countries on the principle that they have completed more than 14 years in jails.Prof.Bhim Singh also said that the Govt. has accepted in its counter affidavit that 109 prisoners are still in different jails in India as under trial. He said that this is also violation of the direction of the Supreme Court order of  2008 in writ petition no.310/2005 where the Hon’ble Supreme Court had directed to conclude all trials of the foreign prisoners within one year. Prof.Bhim Singh argues that this order of the Supreme Court has also been violated. According to the rejoinder of the Home Ministry 64 foreign prisoners are undergoing sentence which include about 15 Pakistani prisoners undergoing life sentence in different jails in the country.

Prof.Bhim Singh request was accepted by the Supreme Court and the matter fixed for final hearing for 9th of September, 2016.

Sd/-B.S.Billowria,Advocate

Secretary, State Legal Aid Committee,J&K