The plight of a large number of Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian jails without trial shocked the Supreme Court on Friday.
"Right to personal liberty is the most dear Article (of the Constitution) to us and the most precious right given to the people," said a bench headed by Justice RM Lodha, seeking a comprehensive status report on such prisoners from the government.
The court gave the Centre two weeks for filing the report. "You should take certain things seriously," the bench said.
It also directed the government to explain why four women prisoners should not be repatriated without any delay.
The court's direction came on a public interest litigation filed by J&K Panthers' Party chief Bhim Singh seeking the release of Pakistani prisoners who continue to be jailed without any case pending against them.
In January, the court had directed the Centre to release and repatriate 61 Pakistani nationals. They were arrested more than a decade ago on various charges such as crossing the border, causing breach of public peace and indulging in terrorist activities. They were in jail despite having served their sentences.
In his application, Singh claimed 300 such prisoners were still languishing in Indian jails.
According to three separate applications filed by Singh, 752 Pakistani prisoners are lodged in various jails.