Government working on repatriation of Indian prisoners


New Delhi : At least 12 Indian prisoners have been brought back from Mauritius under the Repatriation of Prisoners Act and three more are in the process of being repatriated, the government said Wednesday.

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“We have repatriated five British prisoners after this law became operational and agreements have been signed, and one more is under consideration. We have brought back 12 Indian prisoners from Mauritius, and three more are in the process,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in the Rajya Sabha.

Chidambaram’s statement came after members, during a brief discussion on a bill to amend the Repatriation of Prisoners Act, raised concerns over Indian prisoners in countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

They said the bill should be further amended to facilitate the return of Indian prisoners.

The act, which provides for transfer of certain prisoners from India to other countries and to India from abroad, came to force in 2004.

Chidambaram, however, said the act in itself had limited scope as it applied only to prisoners and not to those under trial and then also only to countries with which India has a treaty.

“The act will apply only if prisoner applies, many don’t apply. If the sentence is short like three months or six months, they don’t apply as the procedure takes longer. Only prisoners who have long term apply,” he said.

According to the home ministry, India has signed treaties for prisoner exchange with Britain, Mauritius, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Egypt, France, Bangladesh, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Iran. Negotiations have concluded with Canada, Israel, Hong Kong, Brazil and Italy.

Parliament Wednesday passed a bill to amend the Repatriation of Prisoners Act to replace the words “martial law” with “military law”, as the government said the former is not relevant in the Indian context.

“It is proposed to substitute the words ‘martial law’ of the aforesaid act with the words ‘military law’, as the expression ‘martial law’ is not relevant in the current Indian context,” Chidambaram said in the Rajya Sabha.

“This expression occurred in the aforesaid act due to oversight at the time of passing the bill in 2003 which needs to be corrected,” he said.

The amendment was later passed through a voice vote. It was passed by the Lok Sabha March 1.