Petition For Seeking The Release Of Pakistani Fishermen
CP No. 61 of 2013 [Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum and Other Versus Federation of Pakistan and Others]
The above mentioned petition was filed by PILER and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) before the Honourable Supreme Court, to redress the blatant negligence and inaction on the part of the Pakistani Government to seek the release and repatriation of the Pakistani Fishermen detained in Indian jails. The traditional fishermen on both sides of the boarder have been arrested and detained, by the respective Maritime Security Agencies, for straying across territorial waters and treated like prisoners of war.
The inadvertent straying of the Pakistani fishermen is due to the fact that they had to venture out into deep water with minimum or no navigational technology, for a better catch and due to the indeterminate nature of the international maritime border at Sir Creek and Rann of Kutch, due to disagreements between Pakistan and India over the international border, many fisher people often accidentally venture into Indian waters and are arrested and detained by the Indian Coast Guards.
According to the data chart prepared by the PFF based on confirmations received from the Government of Pakistan and information provided by the Pakistani Fishermen released from Indian jails, 226 Pakistani Fishermen are currently detained in Indian jails, some of them since 1993, and most having completed their sentences. Furthermore, the whereabouts of 66 fishermen, which include minors, are as yet unknown and no efforts have been made by the Government of Pakistan to obtain information or confirmation of whether the missing fishermen are in custody of Indian Authorities or not. Moreover, the Pakistani Government has also failed to take proactive measures to ascertain the legal status of Pakistani fishermen imprisoned in Indian jails and to ensure their release and repatriation and to prevent against the future arrests and detention of straying fishermen in both Pakistan and India
The petitioners also seek the recovery of the detained fishermen’s boat, as the confiscation of the Fishermen’s boats deprive them of their sole means of livelihood and there are reported incidents of released fishermen committing suicide after the confiscation of their boats.
The following Proposed Terms for the disposal of this Constitutional Petition on behalf of the petitioners, was filed by the Counsel for the Petitioners before the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan:
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan, will develop a website regarding the prisoners detained or imprisoned in Indian Jails, with the following details i.e. personal details of prisoners, place of detention or imprisonment, status of legal proceedings especially length of sentence, possible time period of repatriation etc. Within 3 months of the date of the disposal Order of this Petition.
- The Government of Pakistan will make all efforts to ensure the implementation of the Agreement on Consular Access Dated: 21-5-2008.
- Appropriate mechanism to be developed as to how to implement the recommendations and rectify the problems identified in the 7th meeting of India-Pakistan Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners dated: 31-10-2013, within 3 months of the date of the disposal Order of this Petition.
- Develop a policy by Ministry of Interior, Maritime Security Agency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as to how to prevent future arrest and detention of Pakistani Fisherman and their boats, on the Seas, within 3 months of the date of the disposal Order of this Petition.
- Legal assistance including payment of fines, evaluated on a case to case basis, to be provided to the detained or imprisoned Pakistani Fisherman in Indian jails, from the Pakistan Community Welfare and Education Fund (PCW&EF), maintained by the Pakistan Embassies/High Commission’s abroad. Report to be submitted before this Honourable Court giving details of the utilization of this PCW&EF fund for the last five years, within 3 months of the date of the disposal Order of this Petition.
- The Ministry of foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior and Maritime Security Agency, will ensure prompt response to any representation made by the Petitioners and other similar NGO’s regarding the detention or imprisonment of Pakistani Fisherman in Indian jails.
- The Government of Pakistan will make all efforts to ensure the release and recovery of all boats of Pakistani fisherman detained by Indian authorities except those boats which are lost, damaged or confiscated by the courts
On 18.09.2018, the Additional Attorney General submitted documents through which the aforementioned proposed terms presented by the Counsel for the Petitioners, were incorporated in the steps to be taken by Government to ensure the release of Pakistani Prisoners confined in Indian jail. The court ordered that since these commitments have been made by the Federal Government, therefore, the Government is directed to comply with the same in letter and spirit.
In light of the above, this petition stands disposed off.
The following documents are available for viewing online: