The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Central government to follow up on steps being taken to repatriate Indian Army personnel who have been incarcerated in Pakistani jails for long periods of time [Kamla Bhattacharjee v. Union of India and anr].
A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala ordered that the petitioner, whose son Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee has allegedly been in a Pakistani jail since 1997, be intimated on a quarterly basis of steps being taken to bring him back.
Further, Justice Chandrachud orally suggested to Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj that the Union government may ask Pakistani authorities to consider suspending the sentences of Bhattacharjee as well as those similarly placed.
The Bench rejected the suggestion made by counsel for the petitioner to have a committee headed by a retired Army General to fast-track the process of tracing him.
Bhattacharjee was commissioned in the Army's Gorkha Regiment as an officer in 1992. He was patrolling near the Pakistani border at the Rann of Kutch in 1997, when he reportedly went missing. His family was subsequently informed multiple times, over the years, that he remained untraceable.
The present plea has been filed by his 82-year-old mother. The top court had issued notice in the matter in March 2021.
As per a report in The Print, the Central government in an affidavit filed in the matter, had said that Bhattacharjee was among the 83 missing defence personnel whose release India was seeking.
The ASG reiterated that the same was still being communicated to the government of Pakistan through diplomatic channels, as seen in the notes-verbale issued by the Indian High Commission seeking Bhattacharjee's release. Pakistan has maintained that Bhattacharjee cannot be found.
The Indian government had initially declared that the Army man was presumed dead, but later included him in the list of several prisoners of war being incarcerated in Pakistan.
In her plea before the apex court, the petitioner stated that she had received info from an Army official that her son was lodged in a Lahore jail.