Asks government to move International Court of Justice

The Gujarat High Court on Friday directed the Union government to file a case within two months in the International Court of Justice for securing the release of 54 Indian prisoners of war languishing in Pakistani jails for the last 40 years.

Taking the Central government to task for its failure to take any initiative in securing the release of the war prisoners for such a long time, a Division Bench, comprising the acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J.B. Pardiwala directed the Centre to take up with the United Nations the issue of violation of human rights and breach of the Shimla agreement by Pakistan in refusing to release the prisoners.

The court also observed that the 54 prisoners would have to be considered as officials on duty and their emoluments with all peripheral benefits till date should be paid to their family members. In the case of those who might have retired by now, their dues should be settled and pension restored to their families within three months.

A Public Interest Litigation plea seeking the release of the PoWs, who included two from Gujarat, captain Kalyansinh Rahod from Sabarkantha district and pilot N. Shankar from Vadodara, was filed in the High Court in 1999 by a Rajkot-based advocate Kishore Paul under guidance from Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Arora, who had led the Indian Army to victory in the 1971 Bangladesh war.

According to the proceedings of the case, they were taken prisoner during the 1971 war and under the Shimla agreement in 1972 while India released all the Pakistani Army men who had surrendered before the Indian Army in the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, Pakistan released only 632 prisoners and consistently denied knowledge of the 54 others being held in Pakistani jails.

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