ISLAMABAD    -  The Ministry of Interior Thursday apprised the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that seven out of eight Indian prisoners, convicted of espionage, were released and sent back to India. 

It was told to a single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah who conducted hearing of the petitions filed by the Indian High Commission for the release of eight Indian nationals convicted by military courts on charges of espionage and terrorism in Pakistan. 

During the hearing, the interior ministry submitted its report in this matter. Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar told the court that Pakistan has so far released seven out of eight Indian nationals detained on charges of espionage. 

Khokhar also informed the court that only one Indian national is behind the bars under the Official Secrets Act, 1923. He added that five prisoners were returned to India on October 26 and later two more were released after completion of their prison terms. 

The IHC Chief Justice asked that under which law the prisoners were kept in detention even after the completion of their sentence period. He added that the prisoners who have completed their terms should be released from jail according to the law. The bench ordered the state counsel to satisfy the court over the matter on the next hearing. 

The court also granted more time to counsel of the Indian High Commission for the preparation of his arguments and deferred the hearing till November 9 for further proceedings. 

In two identical petitions, the Indian High Commission cited Federation of Pakistan through Secretary Interior and Secretary Foreign Affairs as respondents and requested the court to release the Indian prisoners including Birchu, Bang Kumar, Satish Bhag and Sonu Singh as they have served their sentence. 

The petition stated that the condemned prisoners were arrested by Pakistani military authorities and were charged under section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act, 1954 and provisions of Official Secret Act, 1923. 

It added, “It is the case of petitioners that they have not committed any offence and the entire proceedings initiated from the arrest till culmination in the ultimate conviction are an abuse of process of law but for the purpose of instant writ petition it would be a futile exercise to indulge into the legality of conviction and sentence as by now the condemned prisoners have already exhausted their respective period of sentences awarded by the FGCM.” 

According to the petition, any person belonging to any country tried by the Pakistani authorities except that this glorious protection of law to their life and liberty would be extended to them as a matter of right and dignity. 

It added that the insertion of Article 10(A) in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan by way of 18th Amendment has brought the Pakistani constitution to magnanimous heights of individual’s rights and liberties. 

The petitioner’s counsel contended, “The detention of condemned prisoners for the time being at the hands of respondents is nothing but illegal, unjustified and against the law and dictums of superior courts of the country.”

It argued that now no reason of legal grounds exists under which the ex-convicts could be kept behind the bars hence the ex-convicts should be released and repatriated back to their country enabling them to meet their families. 

Therefore, the counsel prayed to the court that it may direct the respondents to arrange the release of the ex-condemned prisoners from the concerned jails and repatriate them to India in the interest of justice, fair play and equity as the said prisoners have already completed their imprisonment awarded to them and there is no lawful reason to keep them behind the bars.