Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the appeal of Sarabjit Singh, 43, an Indian seeking a review of a death sentence handed down to him in 1991 on terrorism charges, but there is still a ray of hope.
His family, too, is determined to fight till the end.
Singh’s case was dismissed not on merit, but on the ground of non-appearance of his lawyer. Since it is a matter of life and death, it is possible that the court may allow him to appoint another lawyer who can then plead his case.
Singh has been on death row after being convicted of involvement in bombings that killed 14 people in Lahore in 1990. His family, however, insists that he is a farmer who accidentally strayed across the border into Pakistan while drunk, and that he is being confused with Manjit Singh, another man who allegedly carried out the 1990 bombings.
The court order was greeted with dismay at Singh’s house in Bhikiwind village on the Indo-Pakistani border, 50 km from in Amritsar.
His wife Sukhpreet Kaur, 41, said the family would approach the Pakistan embassy for visas.
“I will take my plea for mercy to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari,” Singh's wife told HT.
Under Article 45 of the Pakistani Constitution, the President has the power to pardon any person convicted of any crime by a court.
Reacting to the order of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, 73, said in Delhi: “Sarabjit Singh’s case has touched the sentiments of many people in India who have been following this case. We have consistently urged the government of Pakistan to take a sympathetic and humanitarian view in this case. It is our hope that they will find it possible to do so.”
Singh’s elder daughter Swapandeep, 21, was in a state of shock. “We have alternated between hope and despair over the past couple of years. Now, the uncertainty has increased once again,” she said.
Singh’s regular lawyer, Rana Abdul Hamid could not appear in court on his behalf as he has been appointed additional advocate general of Punjab (in Pakistan). The lawyer appointed to replace him could not appear as he was, at the time of the hearing, engaged in arguing another case before another bench.
With inputs from Satya Prakash