Maintaining that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is part of India, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay high court on Monday that it wants to withdraw cases against a man seeking to be deported to the disputed region.
This submission was made by the state government in the case of PoK native Siraj Khan, who claimed to have accidentally entered Indian territory as a 9-year-old.
Khan has approached the high court seeking direction to the government to deport him to PoK after he was arrested for violating the law. According to Khan, he had approached the state CID to seek its help in going back but the police registered a case against him for entering the country without a passport.
The state government contended that PoK is part of India, as per the Indian Constitution, and thus Siraj Khan is a natural citizen. The case against him under Passport Act and Foreign Citizens Act should not have been registered and will now be withdrawn.
The court has asked the Union government to inform it whether it is agreement with the state's stand on PoK.
An the last hearing, the high court had rapped the state government for allowing a man without a passport to stay in India for so long and directed the government to clear its stand on the matter.
Advocate General Darius Khambatta on Monday argued before the high court that as per the Indian Constitution, PoK is part of India. "Hence Siraj is an Indian," he said.
Reacting to the government's conflicting stand on Khan's citizenship, a division bench of justices A M Khanwilkar and A R Joshi said, "First you register case against him and then you say he is considered as Indian citizen."
Khambatta said the government was ready to withdraw the case against Khan, for which the petitioner will have to approach a lower court seeking to quash the case.
The matter will come up for resumed hearing after a week.
Citing national security, the high court had earlier pulled up the Union and Maharashtra governments for allowing Siraj Khan to stay in the country for so long.
"You have registered a case against the petitioner in 2009. We are now in 2012. The trial is still pending. So you (government) have given him (petitioner) licence to stay here," justices Khanwilkar and Joshi had said while hearing Khan's petition.
"This is a matter having ramifications on national security. What is the state government's policy? How do you propose to handle this situation?" Justice Khanwilkar wanted to know.
Khan, who claims to have accidentally crossed Attari border in 1995 when he was nine years old, has said he was not getting a suitable job here. The only way to live with dignity and pride was to return to his home in PoK, he had said.
According to Khan's lawyer Ejaz Naqvi, the petitioner was born in 1985 at Manshera in PoK. As his parents insisted on his going to school every day, he got fed up and decided to run away. One day he bunked school and caught a train which brought him to Attari border where he saw people cross the barbed wire fence. He too joined them and landed in India.
The petition claims that Khan reached Delhi in December 1995. After a few days, he went to Varanasi where he worked as a waiter at a restaurant before reaching Mumbai.
However, in 1998, when he tried to return to PoK, he was caught by a railway ticket examiner in Ahmedabad, who handed him over to the police. Khan then spent a year at a juvenile home in Gujarat, from where he was released in 1999.
Thereafter, he came back to Mumbai and got a job with a catering company. Once again, he attempted to go to PoK through Wagah border but the authorities denied him entry and threatened to put him behind bars, Khan said in the petition.
Khan returned to Mumbai where he met Sajida and they got married. The couple has three children and stay in Wadala.
Khan said he sought help from Maharashtra CID in 2009 to go back to PoK but was arrested under the Passport Act and Foreign Citizens Act. He was later granted bail.