'20 Indian prisoners in Lahore jail mentally challenged'
The panel recommended that serious ill, mentally challenged and deaf and mute prisoners be kept in appropriate hospitals or special institutions.
New Delhi: Twenty out of 36 Indian prisoners lodged in Lahore's infamous Kot Lakhpat Jail, where Sarabjit Singh was fatally attacked, have lost their mental balance and not been taken to any hospital for proper medical care, an India-Pakistan judicial panel has found.
The India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, which visited Pakistani jails in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore last week, has found that 20 prisoners in Kot Lakhpat jail, two prisoners in Rawalpindi's Adiyala jail and one prisoner in Malir jail in Karachi were mentally challenged.
The Committee has recommended that serious and terminally ill, mentally challenged and deaf and mute prisoners be kept in appropriate hospitals or special institutions irrespective of confirmation of their national status and offence.
As many as 535 Indian prisoners, including 483 fishermen (11 of them juveniles) and eight civil prisoners at District Jail Malir, Karachi, besides eight prisoners at Adiyala jail and 36 prisoners at Kot Lakhpat Jail were presented before the Committee.
The Committee, formed in January 2007 as part of an agreement between the two countries, comprised Justices (Retd) AS Gill MA Khan from the Indian side, and Justices (Retd) Abdul Qadir Chaudhry, Nasir Aslam Zahid and Mian Muhammad Ajmal from the Pakistani side.
The Committee recommended that a mechanism should be developed for compassionate and humanitarian consideration for women, juveniles, mentally challenged, old aged and prisoners suffering from serious illnesses or permanent physical disabilities.
Besides, Indian prisoners, like Pakistani prisoners in Karachi jail, should be allowed to make phone calls to their relatives in India at least once a month. The Committee noted that names of several prisoners had been dropped from the successive lists of prisoners, believed to be Indian, shared by Pakistan twice every year.
It has recommended that Pakistan provide a formal verification to India and vice versa if any names were left out from the previous list of prisoners, so that each side could follow up on each case and discrepancy in the lists maintained by the two sides could be reduced.
The panel said the 'Consular Access Agreement' between the two governments be implemented in letter and spirit and consular access must be provided within three months of the arrest and not after completion of the prisoners' jail terms. Complete details of charges on the prisoners and a copy of court's judgement of the sentence should be shared in each case, it said.
Consular access be provided to all prisoners and fishermen who are believed to be Indian, in Pakistani jails and vice versa, every year, at least four times, namely in the first weeks of February, May, August and November, the panel said.
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