The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought a response from the Centre on a PIL filed by the wife of a prisoner of war (PoW), Major Kanwaljit Singh, in Pakistan, seeking a mechanism for effectively enforcing the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant noted that the plea raises an important issue, as it issued notice to the central government. The bench said: "It is an important matter...to be listed after 3 weeks. Liberty to serve through standing counsel". The plea arraigned the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Defence, and the Chief of Army Staff as respondents.
The plea, filed through advocate Namit Saxena, sought a direction to all the respondents, to approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Pakistan with appropriate judicial remedies, which are binding in nature for the release of all the Indian PoWs held under the torturous custody of Pakistan, in violation of the Geneva Convention for Treatment of Prisoners of War.
The plea has been filed by Jasbir Kaur, the wife of Major Kanwaljit Singh, and Bir Bahadur Singh, a retired soldier of the Indian Army, who is the secretary general of Voice of Ex-Servicemen Society. The plea contended that it is for the state functionaries to evolve methods and strategies to safeguard every citizen's rights, including the rights of PoWs, as guaranteed under Article 21 and the Geneva Convention.
The plea said that Kaur's husband was among the 54 known PoWs detained by Pakistan since the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The plea also sought a direction to all respondents, to procure from the International Red Cross, the list of PoWs, who were scheduled to be repatriated by Pakistan in years succeeding the 1971 war, but ultimately not repatriated as scheduled in the third train of PoWs.
The plea said the Union of India and specifically the Indian Army, have not initiated any concrete steps for establishment of a mechanism for effective enforcement of provisions of the Geneva Convention.
"The utmost suffering and trauma is evident from the overwhelming admitted reality that 54 PoWs, narrated in the Gujarat High Court Judgement dated December 23, 2011, who are worthy soldiers of this great nation, are living a miserable life for almost 50 years now", said the plea.
The plea said respondents' lack of will to ensure observance of Geneva Convention, has led to repeated gross violation of the same again and again, with even more rigour and perpetuity, ultimately leading to the conscious shaking incident of Capt. Saurabh Kalia and his men during the Kargil War in 1999.
"That husband of the petitioner is one amongst many known Indian PoWs, more particularly the 54 known from the 1971 war, about whom domestic and third-party evidence had surfaced from time to time, with regards their illegal and torturous detention in the Pakistani jails, in utter disregard for fundamental human rights, local and international laws, more specifically the Geneva Convention for Treatment of Prisoners of War", added the plea.