Days after the Supreme Court gave nod to Pakistani prisoner Khalil Chishti to visit his country, Press Council Chairperson Justice Markandey Katju has appealed to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to grant freedom to Sarabjit Singh, who is lodged in a jail there.
In a letter addressed to Zardari, he said, "The Indian Supreme Court had recently allowed Chishti to go back to Pakistan. I, therefore, appeal to you in the name of humanity to release Sarabjit Singh and send him back to India."
Chishti, 82, a Pakistani virologist facing life sentence in a murder case, was permitted by the Supreme Court to visit Pakistan for a temporary stay on May 10.
Katju has handed over the letter to Amna, Chishti's daughter, so that she can pass it on to Pakistani authorities on reaching Karachi.
In his letter, Katju has reminded Zardari of his earlier appeals for Sarabjit's release and also expressed reservations over his conviction in the Lahore blast case of 1990.
"I have read some details of his case, and with due respect to the verdict of the (Pakistani) court, I have reservations about its correctness," Katju said.
Katju, a former justice of the Supreme Court, said that in Sarabjit's case, principal witness Shaukat Salim had retracted his statement and said it was given under police pressure.
"The other evidence was of Sarabjit's alleged confession, but everyone knows how confessions are obtained in our countries (by third degree methods)," he said.
"At any event, 21 years in death row with a Damocles' sword hanging over one's head is enough to drive anyone mad. Is this punishment (even assuming he was guilty) not enough," Katju asked in his letter to the Pakistani President.
He said Singh, who is languishing in a Lahore jail for the last 22 years, may have entered Pakistan for some illegal activity, but definitely not to perpetuate terrorism.
"But the unfortunate atmosphere in both our countries is that we regard each other's people like devils. It is high time that this unfounded impression be dispelled in both our countries," he said.