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Court orders release of Pak prisoners

Staff Correspondent

Centre, Punjab Govt. to pay Rs. 10,000 as relief for every extra year prisoners spent in jail

CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered the immediate release of Pakistani citizens who have completed their sentences but are still in various prisons in Punjab. It also quashed the FIR against a Pakistani woman and her three minor children.

The order was handed down on Wednesday by a Division Bench of the Court comprising Chief Justice H.S. Bedi and Justice R.S. Randhawa while disposing a civil petition filed by president of the World Human Rights Protection Council and advocate Ranjan Lakhanpal. The court expressed hope that the Pakistan Government would also take appropriate steps to release Indian prisoners in that country.

The judgement also directed the Centre and the Punjab Government to pay Rs. 10,000 as compensation for every year spent by each individual in jail after completion of their sentences. In case the authorities could not make necessary arrangements for the release and subsequent repatriation, each prisoner would get Rs. 100 as daily compensation.

Mr. Lakhanpal quoted the judgement in the Fida Hussian case of 1995 to oppose the contention by the State that the prisoners could not be released unless they were identified by the Pakistan authorities. In Mr. Hussian's case, he along with five others, were put on the Samjhauta Express and sent to Pakistan, after the High Court ordered their release.

Though there are 89 Pakistan prisoners in Punjab jails, the judgement would benefit 46 persons, including Mumtaz and her three minor children.

Ms. Mumtaz, who was deserted by her Bangladeshi husband, was arrested from Amritsar when she was trying to return to Pakistan. She and her children did not have any travel documents and were detained as undertrials.

In Ms. Mumtaz's case, the court accepted Mr. Lakhanpal's argument for quashing the FIR against her two daughters and son as they were below the age of 12.

Mr. Lakhanpal accused both the Indian and Pakistan Governments of indifference towards to the plight of the prisoners, most whom were from economically weaker sections of society and had been apprehended for offences such as lack of proper documents and violating the visa territory. He quoted the example of Abdul Sharif of Latifabad in Sindh, who remained incarcerated after completing his jail term in July 17, 1997.

Mr. Lakhanpal also told reporters that he would wait for the authorities to implement the court orders, failing which he would file another petition for execution of the decision.

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