Sri Lanka has started the process of handing over some nine Indian prisoners, undergoing life imprisonment here, to India under a SAARC exchange agreement, officials said on Thursday.

G.B. Kulatunga, a local prisons official, said that four of the prisoners, including a woman, were handed back to Indian officials at the Bandaranaike International Airport on Tuesday.

Five more were to be handed over today, he added.

All of them had been serving life imprisonment over drug charges.

Now they will serve rest of their sentence in Indian jails, Mr. Kulatunga added.

He said Sri Lanka in the past had similarly handed over 20 Pakistani and Indian prisoners each to the respective authorities.

The India-Sri Lanka Bilateral Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons signed in June 2010 paved the way for the transfer of the four prisoners to jails in their home country.