Expressing “shock” over large number of Pakistani nationals languishing in various Indian jails without trial, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to file within two weeks a comprehensive report on them.

A bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha also asked the government to explain as to why four women among the jailed Pakistanis should not be repatriated without any delay.

“You should take certain things seriously. Give us entire picture so that we could pass order. Complete information is not forthcoming. Let there be a comprehensive exercise and complete information be provided about foreign nationals in Indian jails,” the bench said.

The court was hearing a plea by J&K National Panthers’ Party chief Bhim Singh seeking its directions to the Centre to release around 300 Pakistani nationals, lodged in different jails of the country.

He submitted that they have been in jails for many years without trial and which is against the law, prompting the court to state that “It is shocking.”

“Right to personal liberty is the most dear Article (of the Constitution) to us and the most precious right given to the people,” the bench said while pulling up the government for not giving complete information to it on prisoners in various Indian jails.

“You have complete information with you. Why do you give information piece meal?” the bench said after hearing arguments from various sides and adjourned the matter for two weeks.

The court had in January directed the Centre to release and repatriate 61 Pakistani nationals languishing in various Indian jails despite having served their sentences.

The Pakistani nationals were arrested more than a decade ago on various charges, including those for carrying out militant activities, crossing the border and causing breach of public peace, Singh had said in a human interest plea, adding though most of them have served their sentences, they continue to languish in jails.

In three separate applications on behalf of the victims, he had alleged earlier that 752 Pakistani prisoners were languishing in various jails. Out of these, 205 are awaiting repatriation, 318 are awaiting consular access and 205 are awaiting confirmation of their nationality, he had said.

The government in January had also told the court that as per the court’s earlier order, it had already repatriated 57 Pakistani prisoners. But in the case of one Abdul Quadri Khwaja, the Pakistan government has refused to take him since they believe he was an Afghan national.

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