ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Wednesday informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that five Indian prisoners who completed their jail terms had been released, but cases of three more convicts who had also served their prison terms had been sent to “Review Board” to set them free.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, however, observed that there was no need to refer the matter to the Review Board since the convicts must be released after completion of their respective jail terms and ordered the authorities concerned to release the three convicts as well.
Justice Minallah was hearing a petition of the Indian High Commission seeking release of those eight Indian citizens who had been convicted by Pakistan’s Military Courts of spying and who had completed their respective prison terms.
Aparna Ray of the Indian High Commission filed the petition in the IHC through advocate Malik Shahnawz Noon.
The petition sought release of Birju Dung Dung alias Birchu, Vigyan Kumar Ghnshyam Kumar and Satish Bhog confined in Central Jail, Lahore, and Sonu Singh confined in Central Jail, Karachi. It said the four convicts had completed their respective jail sentences.
The Deputy Attorney General, Syed Mohammad Tayyab, informed the court that four convicts had been released while another convict who was unwilling to go back had been deported.
According to the petition, “the ... prisoners were arrested by Pakistan military authorities and were charged under section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act, 1954, and provisions of Official Secret Act, 1923. The petitioners say they have not committed any offences”.
The petition further said that these “prisoners have completed their respective sentences and the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, mandates in unequivocal terms that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty in accordance with the law. This provision is quite similar to Article 21 of the Constitution of India which deals with protection of life and liberty”.
The petition said that any person belonging to any country tried by Pakistani authorities expected that this glorious protection of law to their life and liberty would be extended to them as a matter of right and dignity. The petition further said that Article 10(A) of the Pakistani Constitution ensured a fair trial of all and Article 4 enjoined that “every other person for the time being within Pakistan under the protection of law, rights of such individual to be dealt with in accordance with law”.
The petition alleged that in spite of these constitutional provisions, the authorities unfortunately had deprived these prisoners of their legitimate rights.
“For the sake of humanity and common morals the petitioners have requested the respondent no. 2 [secretary of foreign affairs] that ex-convicts are entitled to be released from the jails but all genuine and reasonable objections raised by the petitioner no. 5 [Ms Ray] in this regard were overruled,” it added.
The petition said that the detention of the prisoners for the time being was illegal.
It requested the court to issue directives to the government authorities to release these prisoners and repatriate them to their homeland i.e. India, in the interest of justice.
Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2020