Four year-old Pak girl moves SC judges

New Delhi: Empathising with the plight of a four-year-old girl living in an Amritsar jail with her mother, a Pakistani national convicted in a drug peddling case, the Supreme Court has asked the Child Welfare Committee to take care of the minor with due permission from her mother.

"She is innocent and staying there because of the custody of her mother. Child is precious but she should not stay there because she (Baby Heena) is a daughter of a Pakistani national," a bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said after going through the Centre`s report on Pakistani nationals languishing in Indian jails.

The Centre had filed the report following the apex court`s directions during the November 11 hearing on a petition alleging that several Pakistani nationals, including four women, were languishing in Indian jails without trial.

The Centre, in its report, refuted the allegations and submitted that three out of the four Pakistani woman were convicted under the NDPS Act and the fourth one, who is facing trial, is out of jail on bail.

After going through the report, the court pulled up the J&K National Panthers` Party chief Bhim Singh, who has made the allegation in his public interest litigation petition. The court pulled him up for making statements in the court without properly verifying the facts.

"Now we have to be tough. You gave an entirely different picture. It is not fair on our part to call upon the government on the basis of your statement. Facts have to be verified," the bench said.

On the girl`s plight, the court said, "We are concerned about the child and that is of paramount importance and non-negotiable."

The apex court also said if the mother agrees, the child will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee which will take proper decision regarding her welfare.

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

He had submitted that they have been in jails for many years without trial which is against the law, prompting the court to state that "it is shocking".

The apex court had in January this year 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, 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.