India and Pakistan on Saturday agreed to repatriate by Sep 30 each other's prisoners who have completed their sentences and have the required travel documents. The countries have also decided to prepare a consolidated list of prisoners to hasten their early release.
A joint judicial committee comprising four retired judges each from India and Pakistan visited jails in Amritsar, Delhi and Jaipur in the last six days and made a slew of recommendations to release all the prisoners detained in each other's country.
“The committee reiterates its earlier recommendation that a consolidated list of prisoners with full particulars be reconciled and exchanged. This should be done expeditiously and in any case before the next meeting of the committee,” a joint press statement said at the end of the third meeting of India-Pakistan judicial committee on prisoners.
“All prisoners who have completed their sentences and whose travel documents are available should be repatriated to their respective countries immediately and in case before Sep 30, 2008,” the committee recommended.
The two sides have yet to narrow their differences on the number of prisoners detained in each other's country. They had exchanged lists of prisoners in July, but the numbers did not match.
According to Indian authorities, 378 Pakistani prisoners were held in different jails in India. However, Pakistani authorities contended there were 644 of their nationals in custody in India.
Likewise, the Indian side has claimed there were 687 Indian prisoners, including 412 fishermen, in various jails in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities, however, maintain there were 470 Indian prisoners, including 412 fishermen. Out of the fishermen, 35 juveniles have already been released by Pakistan.
Taking a humanitarian view of the issue, the committee again recommended that women and juvenile prisoners, those who are terminally ill or suffering from serious illness, mentally disabled persons and prisoners involved in minor offences like border crossing, visa violations like overstaying or visiting places not covered by the visa be repatriated on compassionate grounds to their respective countries.
To facilitate the release of such prisoners, the committee asked both governments to take necessary action for withdrawing prosecution or remission of their balance sentence.
The judicial committee also reminded both countries to honour their commitment for providing consular access before Sep 30 to all those prisoners who have been denied this.
The panel also recommended that prisoners who are lodged in different jails of the same state or province should be brought to one jail before their next visit.
The committee strongly recommended an early meeting of the home secretaries of both countries to implement its recommendations.
The retired judges from India who participated in this meeting were Nagendra Rai, Amarjeet Chaudhary, AS Gill and MA Khan. The retired judges from the Pakistani side were Abdul Qadeer Chaudhary, Fazal Karim, Nasir Aslam Zahid, and Mian Muhammad Ajmal.