India seeks release of four prisoners, approaches Pakistan Court

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By Archita Srivastava

The Indian mission in Pakistan has approached the Islamabad High Court demanding the release of four Indian prisoners who have been convicted and sentenced by military courts. 

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The petition — which was filed in the High Court by Aparna Ray, the first secretary of the Indian Mission, through three Pakistani advocates — identified the prisoners as Birju Dung Dung, Vigyan Kumar, Satish Bhog and Sonu Singh, and said they were currently being held in jails in Lahore and Karachi. 

Both prisoners completed the sentences handed down to them by the Pakistani army’s field martial courts — Dung in 2007, Singh in 2012, Kumar in 2014, and Bhog in 2015, according to the petition. 

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The petition, which named Pakistan’s foreign and internal secretaries as respondents, stated that the prisoners had been detained by the Pakistani army and charged under the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act. It also said that the prisoners had claimed that they had committed no crime, and that “the whole course initiated from the arrest to the conclusion of the final conviction is a misuse of the judicial process.” 

The petition also pointed out that the Pakistan Constitution states that “no person shall be deprived of life or liberty in compliance with the law” and asked the High Court to facilitate the release of the prisoners. 

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The Indian Mission noted in the petition that it had formally written to the Pakistan Foreign Office on 18 May to remind the authorities that the issue of the release of these four prisoners had been dealt with through 31 verbal or unsigned notes of diplomatic correspondence between October 2019 and May 2020. The communication stated that the nationality of the prisoners had also been confirmed. 

India and Pakistan actually have hundreds of each other’s nationals in their prisons, most of whom are fishermen detained for straying across the maritime frontier. The strained bilateral relations in recent years have influenced the work of identifying and releasing these prisoners through a joint judicial commission. 

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In addition to exchanging lists of prisoners on two occasions each year, the two sides were unable to make progress on the proposed measures to speed up the release and repatriation of prisoners. 

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