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54 prisoners of 1971 war still in Pak jails! Guj HC writes to Centre

Last updated on: December 23, 2011 14:26 IST
The Gujarat high court on Friday directed the Union of India to approach the International Court of Justice within two months for the release of 54 1971 prisoners of war languishing in Pakistani jails.

Observing that there was an alleged breach of Simla Agreement by Pakistan, division bench of acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala also directed the Union of India to pay next to the kin of 54 POWs full salary and retirement benefits within three months. The court further directed that once the POWs are released the next to kin would have to return the compensation amount to them. It also observed that by not approaching the ICJ, it was inaction on the part of central government for not protecting rights of citizens who protect country's boundaries.

The petition was filed in 1999 by late Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Arora who had sought direction from the court for the central government for release of POWs of 1971 war languishing in Pakistan prisons. Arora had prayed that the POWs be treated as soldiers on duty and their families be given adequate compensation.

The Gujarat high court in January 2010 had imposed a fine of Rs 10,000, twice, on the ministry of defence for not filing appropriate reply in the case for over 10 years despite repeated notices from the court.

According to the Shimla Agreement, India has sent back Pakistani POWs while the neighbouring country also sent 632 soldiers. But in 1999, it was found that 54 POWs were still languishing in Pakistani jails out of which two are from Gujarat -- Kalyan Rathod from Sabarkantha and pilot N Shanker from Vadodara.

Other Indian prisoners who came back from Pakistan jails gave details of those who are still lodged there along with their names and origin. A Rajkot- based lawyer M K Paul is spearheading the campaign for the release of 54 POWs since 1998.

 

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