New Delhi, Aug. 19: The Supreme Court today directed attorney-general Soli J. Sorabjee to reply within two weeks why 11 Pakistani nationals, including three from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, who have served their terms in Indian prisons have not been deported.
A division bench of Justices M.B. Shah and A.R. Lakshmanan asked the attorney-general to inform the court under what provisions of law these 11 prisoners were being detained.
The judges formally issued a notice to Sorabjee to reply to the court and described as “vague” the affidavits filed by the Jammu and Kashmir and the central governments.
The judges said: “Considering the peculiar situation of the prisoners detained since 1993, some of whom are alleged to be residents of PoK, and the statement made on July 22, 2001 by the senior superintendent of police and the vague replies filed by the respondents (the state government and the Centre), notice be issued to the attorney-general to assist the court and to find out under which provision of law the petitioners are kept in prison.”
Another bench of the apex court, comprising Justices Ruma Pal and P. Venkatarama Reddi, had on August 13 issued a notice to the Union government to reply on the status of 14 Pakistani prisoners in a Rajasthan jail. This bench also called for all records pertaining to the case following a habeas corpus petition filed by Bisarat Ali Rajput and 13 others lodged in the jail.
In today’s proceedings, Justices Shah and Lakshmanan treated a letter from a Pakistani prisoner, Noor Mohammad, as a petition and asked the Centre to inform the court about steps taken to deport the prisoners, especially because they had served out their term.
The bench observed that the apex court would take “judicial notice under Article 21 of the Constitution” which guarantees right to life.
“As most of the prisoners are under detention for more than 10 years without trial, we have to take judicial notice of the matter under Article 21,” the judges said after hearing additional solicitor-general Raju Ramachandran, counsel for Jammu and Kashmir Anis Suhrawardy and amicus curiae in the case Ranjana Narayan.
The bench stressed that the Constitution guarantees even foreign nationals full fundamental rights.
Earlier, before the bench of Justice Pal, additional solicitor-general Altaf Ahmad had contended that “enemy aliens” had no fundamental right under the Constitution. The bench had then noted that there could not be a distinction between “enemy aliens and friendly aliens”.
In today’s proceedings, the Centre gave details of the 11 prisoners.
The three from PoK are Bisarat Ali Rajput (lodged in Agra jail), Umar-ud-Din (Varanasi jail) and Assadullah Qadri (Nainital jail). Five prisoners — Sahid Mehmood (from Rawalpindi), Mohammad Ishfaq Rajput (from Sialkot), Iftekhar Hyder (from Peshawar), Salla-ud-Din (from Faisalabad) and Mohd Akram Balouch (from Baluchistan) — are lodged in Nainital jail. The others — Abdul Khaliq (from Faisalabad), Zamir Ahmed (from Gujranwala) and Habibullah Shah (from Wajidapora Kasoor) — are lodged in Varanasi jail.
Bisarat Ali Rajput was arrested in connection with a jailbreak, but the prosecution was facing difficulty as witnesses were shying away from deposing because of fear and threat from terrorists.
“Many other accused persons involved in this case have either gone across the Line of Control or have gone underground and are not traceable as yet,” the government said.
This case will be taken up after two weeks. The case before Justice Pal’s bench is scheduled to come up tomorrow.