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Hope prevails for Pakistan nationals in Amritsar jail

High Court directs Centre to intervene

Hope prevails for Pakistan nationals in Amritsar jail

Photo for representation. File photo

Tribune News Service

Saurabh Malik

Chandigarh, April 13

In a transit camp at the Amritsar Central Jail, no less than 30 Pakistani nationals find themselves in a peculiar limbo. Their journey home remains elusive long after the completion of sentences. Amid the backdrop of longing and hope, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the Union of India to initiate necessary steps with the Pakistani Embassy for their repatriation.

The Bench of Chief Justice Gurmeet Singh Sandhawalia and Justice Lapita Banerji has also described as apparently “baseless” the stand taken in a communication placed before the court that travel documents were required to be furnished by the Pakistan High Commission for the repatriation of two Pakistani juveniles.

As the matter came up for resumed hearing, a letter dated March 28 was placed before the Bench. Among other things, it said repatriation could not take place as the travel documents of the juveniles were not brought to the integrated check post (ICP) at Attari by the Pakistan High Commission. As such, there was “deficiency of travel documents of the juveniles”.

Referring to the order dated April 18, 2023, passed by the Tarn Taran Juvenile Justice Board, the Bench asserted it showed the juveniles were tried and acquitted under the provisions of the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920. The court concluded that the juveniles could have entered by mistake due to foggy weather and “non-wiring”.

The Bench asserted: “In such circumstances, the stand taken in the communication that there has to be any travel document to be furnished by the Pakistan High Commission, it seems to be baseless. Let AFRRO, ICP Attari Road, Amritsar, be present on the next date of hearing. Needless to say if repatriation of two juveniles is done before the next date of hearing, the officer need not be present.”

Taking a note of an affidavit on the confinement of 30 Pakistani nationals even after they completed their sentences, the Bench directed that the matter regarding the issuance of requisite travel document be taken up with the embassy/high commission as deportation could take place only after the same were furnished.

“It is submitted that such Pakistani nationals can be repatriated only after completion of sentence/court proceedings, grant of consular access and confirmation of nationality and issue of travel documents by the Government of Pakistan. It is further submitted in the affidavit that consular access has also been provided to all these Pakistani nationals. Let the Union of India take necessary steps as such for repatriation with the Pakistan Embassy,” the Bench concluded.

The high court had earlier initiated suo motu proceedings on the issue after two juveniles from Pakistan, detained despite sentence completion, had approached Justice NS Shekhawat, the administrative judge of the Faridkot Sessions Division.

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