SC fiat to government on POWs in Pakistan jails
New Delhi: The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to inform it about the current status of list of Indian Prisoners of War (POWs) languishing in Pakistani jails for 43 years and efforts made for their release.
The apex court asked the Ministry of External Affairs to file a fresh affidavit within six weeks indicating current status of the list prepared by government in 1985 admitting that 54 Indian defence personnel were held as POWs in Pakistan during the 1971 war.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha said “29 years is a long time” since the list of 54 POWs was prepared and it has to be determined what is their status as some of them may not be alive.
It said in the fresh affidavit, the Centre will inform the court about the development undertaken by it since February 17, 2010 as there is no other material after that to indicate the steps taken on the matter.
“State has to take a responsive stand. It is the matter of its army and airforce personnel,” the bench, also comprising justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman, said while adding that “government has different means to estimate how many of them are in Pakistani jails”.
“It has different agencies. It has different sources that you can’t even conceive. It does not persuade me to believe that 54 PoW are there after 43 years. Many of them may have died,” the bench said after taking note of the submission that Pakistan has been claiming that there was not a single Indian POW in its jails.
The apex court, which noted the Centre’s stand that it was not a matter to be referred to the International Court of Justice, said to deal with this critical, grave and sensitive aspect, a positive attidue was required and authorities concerned should explore all possible ways to address the issue with Pakistan as the matter rerquires “very little court interference”.