New Delhi, July 31: The Union home ministry today informed Delhi High Court that President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has rejected a plea to release Purulia arms drop convict Peter Bleach. No reason for the rejection was provided.
Legal activist Deepak Prahladka had filed a writ petition in the high court, seeking directives to the home ministry to decide on a petition he had sent to the President.
The petition had argued that Bleach, a Briton languishing in Alipore jail, should be released on equal remission of sentences as granted to his five co-convict Latvians in July 2000.
But today, the home ministry told the legal activist in a letter: “The file containing the reasons for rejecting the petition will be shown to the court if so directed by the honourable court.”
An angry Prahladka responded by saying: “I will file a fresh petition challenging this order and seek reasons why the petition for release of Bleach was rejected.” He said the Supreme Court had earlier laid down that while rejecting a remission petition, authorities must clearly state their reason for the decision.
“Even a person asking for a telephone connection is given an explanation why it is refused. Why can the home ministry not explain it clearly to me in this important case'” asked Prahladka.He had filed the petition on September 1, 2001.
Reacting to the government declaration in court, the British High Commission in Delhi said Bleach’s release must remain a matter for the courts to decide. “This is a decision for the Indian courts authority to make,” said high commission consular spokesman Geoff Wilson. “We still believe there are strong grounds for Bleach’s release.”
Of late, there has been a noticeable softening in the Centre’s stand. During his recent visit to the United Kingdom, L.K. Advani assured Prime Minister Tony Blair that he would ask his law minister Arun Jaitley to take a second look at the case.
The deputy Prime Minister later said that while the Centre was not averse to releasing Bleach, there were legal complications which could lead to the case falling through. Advani said Bleach had already spent seven years in jail and appeared sympathetic to his plight.
Danish national Kim Davy, a co-conspirator with Bleach, escaped from Mumbai airport in 1995. He has since surfaced in Denmark, but Indian efforts to summon him have run into legal complications.
Delhi is hoping the Danes will agree to arrest Davy and try him for conspiracy against India. But if Bleach is pardoned and set free, the case for trying Davy will weaken and it will allow Denmark to wriggle out of trying one of their nationals.