Transferring state and receiving state must complete legal procedures

Eleven Indian nationals in a Sri Lankan prison eligible for repatriation under a mutual agreement continue to languish here because some States, notably Tamil Nadu, are yet to complete formalities at their end.

One of the prisoners, who was repatriated on March 1, said some of those left behind were severely traumatised when news reached them that they would have to wait longer. “I would have been happy if all of us left together. I feel sad, helpless…I pray that they will be able to go back soon,” he said.

When a flight took off for Chennai from the Bandaranaike International airport early on Saturday, it signalled the end of an drawn-out ordeal — which began in June 2010 with the signing of the bilateral agreement — for the last batch of sentenced prisoners.

As many as 20 sentenced persons in the Welikada prison in Colombo, from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, will be able to meet their families, after as long as a decade in some cases. One prisoner will get to meet what is left of his family after 25 years.

The process of transporting prisoners began early this week. According to regulations in commercial flights, only two passengers could be taken per flight. Sri Lankan officials in various departments, the Indian High Commission, the Indian Foreign Office, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, State government authorities in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, had to work in unison to pull off the transfer.

The India-Sri-Lanka bilateral agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons was signed on June 9, 2010. This agreement provides for the conditions under which such transfers can take place and the various obligations of the transferring state and the receiving state.

Accordingly, the requests made by eligible persons are processed by the Sri Lanka and forwarded to India for completion of the necessary legal procedures. The transferred persons would be completing the remainder of their terms in India, the Indian High Commission said in a release.

In all, there were 31 sentenced Indian nationals undergoing prison terms in Sri Lanka that were considered eligible for repatriation under the terms of the agreement.

Formalities with regard to the remaining 11 eligible persons are already underway, the High Commission release said.