Apex court seeks government stand on Indians in Pakistan jails


New Delhi : The Supreme Court Monday sought the government’s response on a plea alleging callousness in securing the release of 182 Indian citizens languishing in Pakistani jails.

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A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, without actually issuing notice to the government, asked Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati to respond to the petition within four weeks.

The bench, which also included Justice R.V. Raveendran, appeared hesitant to issue notice to the government as the matter involves two sovereign nations, but it informally sought the government’s stand.

The petition was filed by a resident of Gurdaspur in Punjab, Gopal Dass, who has been jailed in Pakistan since July 1984, when he was arrested for inadvertently crossing into Pakistan.

In his petition, filed through his brother Anand Vir, Gopal Dass told the court that the Indian government has not made any attempt to secure his release through diplomatic channels though the Pakistan government had decided to release him and others like him on Aug 14, 2007.

Dass, lodged in Minawali Jail since 1999, told the court that after his interception by Pakistani border force personnel, he was tried by the Field General Court Martial at Sialkot Cantonment on charges of espionage and sentenced to life imprisonment on June 30, 1986.

He told the apex court that he has been behind bars in Pakistan for 22 years and is still languishing there despite completing a life term in 2005.

The petition said: “After completion of his life term there, the Pakistan government completed all formalities for his release, but the Indian government, for reasons best known to them, did not requisition his release through diplomatic channels – a prerequisite for his release.”

Surrogate petitioner Anand Vir, quoting various letters written to him by his jailed brother Dass, including those written in August 1999, March 2007, October 2007 and December 2007, told the apex court that there are a total of 182 Indian prisoners languishing in various Pakistani jails but the government was little concerned about their plight and was making no efforts to have them released.