Though his plea is pending with the Supreme Court for over a year and a half, the apex court on Monday had little hope to offer to Indian 'spy' Gopal Dass about his early release from a Pakistan jail, where he has been languishing for the past 25 years.
Unable to do anything significant to expedite his release from Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore, a bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justice P Sathasivam and Justice JM Panchal adjourned the hearing on Dass' plea for another six months.
The bench deferred the hearing in the case by six months after Attorney General GE Vahanvati told the court that India has been able to provide consular access to Dass and is trying to ascertain his citizenship.
The government's law officer made the submission in response to a plea by Dass's brother Anand Vir, of Faridkot in Punjab, for the apex court's intervention in securing his brother's release. Vir forwarded Dass' letter to Chief Justice Balakrishnan.
On the basis of the letter, the Supreme Court on Feb 18, 2008, asked for the government's response to Dass's plea, without actually issuing notice to the government.
Vahanvati subsequently on May 12, 2008, told the court that Pakistan was not providing consular access to Gopal Dass. He said Pakistan refused to let Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad meet Dass.
Vahanvati told the court that India and Pakistan have also formed a joint committee to look into cases of their nationals being held as prisoners in either country.
The apex court subsequently adjourned the hearing, which came up again on Monday but with little hope for Dass.
Gopal Dass was arrested by Pakistani forces on July 27, 1984. He claims to be an Indian spy and had sent his letter to Chief Justice Balakrishnan on Oct 10, 2007, from the Mianwali Jail in Pakistan's Punjab province.
Dass made a fervent plea to his brother: "Dear brother, please tell the apex court judge about us and request him to ask the government why they don't take back the Indians who have sacrificed themselves for their motherland. Are we not Indian citizens?"
Written in a mix of Hindi and Urdu, Dass asked: "Are the ministers blind or deaf? Judge sahib, please ask them why they don't take their country's spies back. Do we have to give them money?"
Dass asked: "How can Indian and Pakistani ministers say that they do not indulge in espionage against each other?"
"It's known to the entire world that both countries indulge in espionage. Every time a spy is held, it's reported by the entire media, including the BBC."
Dass wrote that the Indian government has virtually forgotten nearly 200 prisoners like him and went on to detail the plight of four other prisoners who, he had said, completed their sentence at least five years ago.
Dass' letter also referred to Kashmir Singh, who was freed in March 2008 by then president Pervez Musharraf from Lahore's Central Jail after spending 35 years in Pakistani jails.
Last month, the Pakistani Supreme Court turned down the mercy petition of another Indian prisoner, Sarabjit Singh, who is on death row. India has urged Pakistan to take a "sympathetic and humanitarian" view in the case of Sarabjit Singh.