The protocol on the exchange of prisoners between India and Pakistan was not working, the government told the Supreme Court on Friday, because the latter was only interested in taking back “hard-core terrorists”.
“Pakistan only needs hard-core terrorists. It recycles them and sends them back,” said Additional Solicitor General Amarender Sharan during the hearing of PIL filed by Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh. The plea alleges that several Pakistani nationals are languishing in different jails of the country for more than a decade without facing trial.
“Pakistan does not accept prisoners who are lodged in Indian jails for minor offences,” Sharan told a bench headed by Justice B.N. Agrawal. He said there were problems in the protocol that was coming in the way of releasing prisoners.
He said there is a need to draft an appropriate policy and statutory guidelines or special legislation to deal with the “peculiar” situation. On the court’s query regarding the deportation procedure, Sharan said in such cases the government has to have consular access. “But, we are helpless if the other country does not accept the request.”
On his submissions that more time is needed to work out a policy regarding such prisoners, the court granted two months to the Centre.
The court has been monitoring the release of Pakistani prisoners through the PIL. On several occasions it has directed the authorities to deport them.
According to Singh, several Pakistanis, after their arrest in Jammu and Kashmir, were moved to jails in Punjab, Rajasthan and other places without being produced in any court for trial. He has provided a list of 59 such prisoners. Many of them are either facing trial or serving sentences for offences that are punishable by death sentence, life or imprisonment up to 20 years.
The prisoners, whose deportation has been ruled out by the Centre, are facing charges of sedition, criminal conspiracy, murder, attempt to murder and under the Arms Act.