The Supreme Court on Monday snubbed the Centre for not releasing 22 Pakistani prisoners on the ground that Islamabad had failed to release the same number of Indian prisoners. It also directed the government to deport within two months all Pakistani prisoners who have completed their sentences after being arrested under the Public Safety Act of Jammu and Kashmir.
A bench headed by Justice Markandeya Katju reminded the Centre’s counsel of Article 21 of the Constitution and said every person, including a Pakistani national, had the right to life.
“Relief under Article 21 is available to every person irrespective of his nationality or otherwise. This provision in the Indian Constitution cannot be diluted,” the bench said while directing immediate deportation of the prisoners who were languishing in various jails of the country despite the J&K government recommending their release.
The direction was made after Bhim Singh, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party, who had filed a petition in 2005 seeking release of 124 Pakistani nationals detained under the Public Safety Act, said the Centre was not acting vis-à-vis the 22 prisoners.
Forty-two Pakistanis have already been released following the petition.
The court further observed that what happened in Pakistan is not its concern. “This court is the custodian of the civil rights of every person, Indian or foreigner, under Article 21 and no person shall be deprived of his life or liberty without the procedure established by law,” the Bench said.
“How can the government keep them in detention in violation of the fundamental rights of a person for years together without resorting to the procedure of law?” it added.
The counsel for the Centre was unable to convince the court when asked that under what law the government could demand release conditionally by bartering prisoners in exchange.
With PTI inputs