Jail term served, fine paid too, but Pakistani sisters, child still in Amritsar jail
It was on April 6 last year that Batala-based non-government organisation, Sarbat Da Bhala Humanity Club, came forward to pay the fine on Fatima Bibi and her sister Mumtaj with regard to their conviction in 2006. Their main jail term got completed in November of 2015, but they have been serving an extra two years due to non-payment of the fine.punjab Updated: Aug 02, 2017 19:55 IST
A ray of hope had emerged four months ago for a Pakistani woman, her sister and 10-year-old daughter who are in the central jail here on drug charges, after an NGO paid Rs 4 Lakh as fine that was mandatory for their release. But they remain behind bars, as the bureaucratic process continues to stretch.
It was on April 6 last year that Batala-based non-government organisation, Sarbat Da Bhala Humanity Club, came forward to pay the fine on Fatima Bibi and her sister Mumtaj with regard to their conviction in 2006. Their main jail term got completed in November of 2015, but they have been serving an extra two years due to non-payment of the fine.
Fatima, the elder one, was pregnant when she and Mumtaj were arrested from the Samjhauta Express on May 8, 2006, at the Attari railway station for carrying drugs. Fatima gave birth to Hena in jail; and she is yet to see her native land.
Though the two sisters completed their jail term in November last year, the sessions court extended it by two years for their failure to pay the fine. Finally, the NGO led by Navtej Singh Gaggu gave a ray of hope to the sisters and young Hena on humanitarian grounds. “They had already faced four months of extra imprisonment before the NGO paid the fine for them. We are yet to get response from the Union government,” said advocate Navjot Kaur Chabba, a women’s rights activist who is contesting the case for them.
She explained, “The file of the case was sent to the authorities concerned in the Punjab government, who sent it to the Union ministries of home affairs and external affairs for approval of release.”
Guggu said, “Of the two years of extended imprisonment, now eight months are already gone. What is the point of our efforts to collect the fine money from social activists and then paying it? If the government wanted to delay the release, why was our fine money submitted? It should return the amount if it is not sure about their release, so that the money can be used for other social work.”
“We have also filed a writ in the Punjab and Haryana high court against the attitude of the government as it is not acting as per the court’s order in this case,” he added.
When contacted, Satnam Singh, deputy superintendent of the Amritsar jail, said the matter is under consideration at the Union government’s level. “Although the NGO has paid the fine, they have to wait for some time as the government has to tie up with the Pakistan government too,” he added.
Fatima belongs to Gujranwala, while her sister who is unmarried is a resident of Sikandrabad; they were on way to Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh to meet their maternal uncles when they were arrested. Fatima had argued in the court that the 400-gram smack seized from their train compartment belonged to a fellow traveller.
Pertinently, a court intervened for release of the child Hena, but Fatima refused to send her back to Pakistan alone as she had grown up with her in the jail. There may also be a row over the child’s citizenship as she was born here.