The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought to know the Centre's stand on a plea for direction to it to take steps for release and repatriation of Indian death row convict Sarabjit Singh languishing in a Pakistani jail for the last 21 years for his alleged role in a terror act there.
A bench of justices B Sudershan Reddy and Surinder Singh Nijjar issued notices to the Ministry of External Affairs and the Union Home Secretary on a plea by Sarabjit through his sister Dalbir Kaur.
"The union government has failed to take appropriate steps for his release," said Kaur, adding "Her letters and representations have not even been answered by the External Affairs Ministry and the Home Ministry despite several attempts."
Dalbir has sought the court's directions to the government for immediate and necessary steps for Sarabjit's release from Lahore's Kotlakhpat Central Jail.
Dalbir said "It is the duty of the government of India to ensure and guarantee the fundamental rights of its citizens and take appropriate measures for early release of Sarabjit who was illegally detained by the government of Pakistan."
In her petition, Dalbir also accused the government of doing precious little "for release of Sarabjit and other Indian citizens, illegally detained in Pakistan, despite the fact that most of them have completed their jail term after conviction."
Kaur claimed "courts of Pakistan have wrongly convicted Sarabjit and sentenced him to death due to mistaken identity." Arrested on August 28, 1990, by Pakistan police for his alleged involvement in a serial bomb blasts a month earlier in Lahore and Multan that killed 14 people, Sarabjit was awarded death by a Lahore anti-terrorism court in October 1991.
The death sentence was upheld by the Lahore High Court and later by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2009. Sarbajit was, however, given mercy by the then Pakistan President. "Sarabjit was not present at the time of the said incident which took place on July 28, 1990 in Pakistan", Dalbir said in her plea to the apex court.
She also contended that his brother was a victim of mistaken identity. "The case, which was registered by the Pakistani authorities, was in the name of Manjeet Singh, alias Sarabjit Singh, son of Mohanga Singh, though he has no link with the said person as evident from the documents regarding the identity of Sarabjit Singh," said Dalbir.
She said "He was tried in the name of Manjeet Singh alias Sarabjit Singh, son of Sulakhan Singh, which makes it clear that the petitioner was wrongly implicated in the case while the fact was that the petitioner had crossed the boarder of Pakistan and was arrested for spying."