India’s Supreme Court has expressed its “shock” over the large numbers of Pakistani prisoners languishing in Indian prisons without having been charged.
The court has ordered the New Delhi government to produce a comprehensive report on the inmates within two weeks.
Senior judge R.N. Lodha told Indian media it is shocking that over 254 Pakistani nationals are languishing in jails without a trial, The right to personal liberty is the most dear article [of the Constitution] to us and the most precious right given to the people. We are here to uphold the rights and liberties of every person, whether he is a citizen or not.
According to Indian media reports, at least 250 Pakistani citizens are in Indian jails, some for many years without charge. One case even involves a man who has been incarcerated for more than four decades.
The court got involved principally because Bhim Singh, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party, filed a petition seeking release of some prisoners. The petition mentioned four female Pakistanis who had been held for ten years.
Many of the Pakistanis are being held in detention in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Singh noted that many of the Pakistani nationals in Kashmiri prison had been picked up on charges militancy or simply wandering across the border into Indian territory.
The court also blasted the government for failing to provide sufficient information on the jailed Pakistanis.
You [the government] have complete information with you. Why do you give information piecemeal? the bench asked.
You should take certain things seriously. Give us the entire picture so that we could pass order. Let there be a comprehensive exercise and complete information… provided about foreign nationals in Indian jails.
The development comes in the awake of new statements of conciliation by the prime ministers of Indian and Pakistan at a South Asian summit in the Maldives.