Islamabad: A Pakistani court has ordered the authorities to free two juvenile Indian fishermen and asked them to provide details of steps taken for the release and exchange of some 1,000 fishermen interned in jails of both countries.
A division bench of the Sindh High Court headed by Chief Justice Sarmad Jalal Usmany issued the order yesterday while hearing a petition filed by the NGO Society for Protection of Rights of Child.
Sindh`s Additional Advocate General Sarwar Khan informed the bench that two young Indian fishermen, for whose release the petition was filed, had been freed by the court of a judicial magistrate in Karachi. The court had also ordered their return to India on humanitarian grounds.
However, Khan said the handing over of Indian fishermen to authorities in their country is a matter of policy because fishermen who violate maritime boundaries are booked under the Foreigners Act and only the federal government can take steps to repatriate them.
Khan told the court that there is an established procedure for exchange of prisoners between the two countries, according to which Pakistan frees as many Indian fishermen as Pakistani fishermen released from Indian jails.
The bench issued notices to the interior and foreign ministries, directing them to provide details of steps taken for the release and exchange of some 1,000 Pakistani and Indian fishermen held in jails of both countries.
The court directed the federal authorities to inform it about the exact number of Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails and the number of Pakistani fishermen interned in India.
The counsel for the NGO SPARC told the court that about 430 Indian fishermen were in Pakistani jails and 600 Pakistani fishermen were in India`s custody.
The counsel said that on December 02, 2009, Pakistan`s Maritime Security Agency arrested 15 Indian fishermen for allegedly violating Pakistan`s maritime boundaries.
Among them were the two young fishermen whose release was sought by SPARC.