India Pursuing Release Of 83 Missing Personnel Including PoWs Of 1965, 71 Wars From Pakistan: Centre Tells SC
New Delhi, Apr 7 (PTI) The Centre has told the Supreme Court that there are 83 missing defence personnel including 62 Prisoners of the War of 1965 and 1971 for whom India is seeking their release and repatriation from Pakistan through diplomatic and other available channels.
The government through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has filed an affidavit on a plea filed by the mother of an Army officer Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee seeking direction to the Centre to take immediate steps through diplomatic channels for repatriation of her son, who is lodged in jail in Pakistan for over 24 years.
The plea said the petitioner had received information that Sanjit, who was commissioned as an officer of Gorkha Rifles Regiment of the Indian Army in August 1992, was lodged in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.
The petitioner said that her family was informed in April 1997 that her son, who had gone for patrolling duty at night time on a joint border in Gujarat’s Rann of Kutch, was apprehended by the Pakistan authorities while carrying out operation reconnaissance along the international borders on April 20.
The government in its affidavit attached the annexure of Note Verbale dated March 8, 2021, in which it referred to several Notes Verbales issued by the High Commission of India in Pakistan and the list of 83 missing Indian defence personnel requesting to look into their whereabouts, and for the early release and repatriation of missing Indian defence personnel.
As per the list, out of 83 missing defence personnel, four are Prisoners of War who went missing in 1965, and most are from the 1971 war. A total of 21 Defence personnel are missing from 1996 till 2010.
The Centre said in its affidavit, “It is respectfully submitted that the government of India has been pursuing the case of Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee regularly through diplomatic and other available channels”.
It said, “the High Commission of India in Islamabad has been regularly taking up the matter with the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs for ascertaining the whereabouts and early release and repatriation of missing defence personnel, believed to be in Pakistan’s custody”.
The affidavit filed through Neha Singh, undersecretary (Pak) in MEA said that the name of captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee appears in the list of missing Indian defence personnel shared with Pakistan through various Notes Verbales issued by the High Commission of India.
“However, the government of Pakistan has not acknowledged the presence of Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee in its custody till date”, the MEA said and annexed the latest Note Verbale dated March 8, 2021, addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The government said that through the High Commission of India, Islamabad is making every effort to get any information regarding Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee, son of the petitioner.
“The government of India will continue to raise the issue with the government of Pakistan, requesting it to respond on the status of Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee”, it said.
Referring to another similar petition filed in 2005 by the wife of a BSF Constable Surjit Singh, it said that the top court had by its order on May 3, 2005, disposed of the plea while directing the authorities to continue efforts to find out an actual position about the whereabouts of her husband and to intimate the petitioner.
“The answering respondent state that all necessary steps through diplomatic and other available channels to trace the whereabouts of writ petitioner’s son and will continue to do so and keep the writ petitioner informed about the development in this regard,” the government said.
On March 11, the top court had agreed to hear a plea filed by the mother of an Army officer seeking direction to the Centre to take immediate steps through diplomatic channels for repatriation of her son, who is lodged in jail in Pakistan for over 24 years.
Earlier, the bench, on March 5, last year, had issued the notice and sought a response from the Centre on the petition filed by 81-year-old Kamla Bhattacharjee, mother of Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee, seeking directions to the authorities to intervene in the case on an “urgent humanitarian basis”.
The plea said the petitioner later received a letter dated May 31, 2010, from a Major General, who was the then military secretary to the President, which informed that Sanjit’s name had been added to the existing missing prisoners of war (POWs) list.
It said the petitioner was informed that the issue of missing defence personnel was taken up with Pakistani authorities several times at the highest level, including during the Agra summit in July 2001, but the officials of Pakistan had informed that Sanjit could not be traced.
“The petitioner’s family awaits the return of Capt. Sanjit till date. The petitioner's husband died on November 28, 2020, after waiting for his son for the past twenty-three years. The petitioner herself at 81 in her old age is yearning for one sight of her son,” the plea said.
“The petitioner's son and his companion were not captured during any war between the two countries but during the performance of their bonafide official duties while patrolling on the border. As a consequence of this, the inclusion of his name in the list of POWs itself shows that the petitioner’s son is alive and in the jail of Pakistan,” it said.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without any modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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