The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Union government for prolonged incarceration of several Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails despite their having completed their sentences.
"There is total inaction and laxity on the part of the government.
"We are more concerned about the liberty of the persons who continue to be in jails despite serving their sentences," said a bench of justices RM Lodha and HL Gokhale while ruing that some prisoners had been kept in detention even without having any case registered against them.
"Please show us the procedure under which you have detained and kept them for prolonged incarceration. We are more concerned with the question of substantial justice which should prevail over the procedures," the bench observed.
The bench pointed out that the prolonged detention of foreign nationals was violative of the constitutional right of the life and liberty granted under Article 21 to every person in the country, including the foreign nationals, infraction of which cannot be condoned by the courts.
The apex court directed Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha to furnish to the court the government's policy, if any, for dealing with such foreign nationals.
The apex court pointed out that the case relating to the alleged illegal detention of foreign nationals was pending with the courts since 2005 but the government was not taking any steps to deport them, even after they having completed their respective prison terms.
The apex court pointed out that the Union government has been lax in dealing with the issue inspite of several directives from it. It said while some of them were held for illegal entry into the country, others were arrested for alleged subversive activities.
"We don't want your bureaucrats to sleep over the files and go into slumber. We don't want clarifications from section officers, please give us comprehensive details as to whether there is any bilateral policy.
"Don't compel us to summon the presence of a senior officer for clarification," the bench said.
The court also termed as "infraction of human rights of the worst order" the cases relating to certain prisoners who were held under the preventive detention law under section 109 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in jail for over a year.
Citing the instance of one particular prisoner detained since October 6, 2009 under the preventive detention law, though no offence was registered against him, the bench observed that these are things that no court will countenance.
The apex court made the observation while dealing with two separate public interest litigations (PILs) relating to alleged prolonged incarceration of Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals in Indian jails.