Closer home: Indian convicts abroad can serve time here

  • Aloke Tikku, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 19, 2015 01:30 IST

Indian citizens convicted of crimes abroad can seek their repatriation to a jail in their native state but would have to give an undertaking to serve their sentence before being brought back, according to the guidelines laid down by the home ministry.

The guidelines — circulated last week to the states — have also set a six-week deadline for the government to decide every request under the repatriation of prisoners act (RPA).

The law was enacted in 2003 to enable citizens convicted of crimes abroad to serve their jail term in India, closer to their family and give them a better chance at social rehabilitation. Similarly, foreigners convicted of crimes in India could be sent to their home countries.

As a general rule, the guidelines also explicitly bar repatriation of those convicted for serial killings, terrorism, paedophiles and repeat offenders.

Government sources said the condition to get the prisoner’s consent to serve the entire jail sentence comes in the backdrop of the Mumbai high court order to release Prem Kishore Raj, repatriated from Mauritius to Thane central prison in 2008.

Raj — who described himself as a young film actor — was arrested in May 1996 for possessing over 300 gm heroin at Mauritius’ airport. He was sentenced to 30 years for trafficking 18 months later.

In 2013, the Mumbai high court, however, ruled that Raj had already served the jail term that he would have been sentenced to if he had committed the offence in India.

The government challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court last year but also learnt its lesson--that the jail sentence had to be adapted according to domestic laws before the repatriation, and sealed.

But this law hasn’t really helped relocate as many Indians as was being believed initially.

In the 11-odd years that it has been in force, only 45 Indians have been brought back under this law and 9 foreigners serving their sentence in the country, sent to their country.

There are nearly 6,000 Indians locked up in jails around the world. It is not known how many of them are convicts, and are eligible to seek repatriation.

One reason is that the law can kick in only if India has a treaty with another country. A bilateral pact to repatriate the convicts has been signed with only 35 countries including countries that don’t have any Indian prisoners such as Venezuela and Ecuador.

Another appears to be the condition of Indian jails.

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