The Lahore High Court has allowed Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh to meet his lawyer on humanitarian grounds, in response to a petition filed by Advocate Sheikh against Punjab home secretary and IG Prisons for not allowing him to meet his client, incarcerated at Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore.
The IG Prisons had stated that all petitions as well as the mercy appeal of Singh had been dismissed and since no case was pending before any court of law in Pakistan, there was no need to allow the Indian convict to meet any lawyer.
Directing the IG Prisons to grant Advocate Awais Sheikh one-time permission to meet his client, the chief justice of the Lahore High Court Umar Ata Bandial also directed the counsel to bring fresh power of att.orney from the family of Singh if he wanted to meet him again.
Singh, convicted and sentenced to death by a court in Pakistan in 1991 for his alleged involvement in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, has been in solitary confinement for 22 years. Although his execution has been put off, it has not been formally commuted to life imprisonment. He has always maintained that his real name is Manjit Singh and that he is the victim of a mistaken identity. Eminent Indians and Pakistanis have urged Pakistan to release and repatriate Singh in humanity’s name. They include former Justice of the Indian Supreme Court Markandey Katju, who is currently Chairman of the Press Trust of India.
Quoting the famous poet Faiz (Qafas udas hai yaaron…) in a letter to the Pakistani president and Prime Minister, Justice Katju writes:
“I have personally gone through the evidence against him meticulously and found it extremely weak. The main witness against him, Shaukat Salim, later retracted his statement, and said he gave it under police pressure. In the F.I.R. Sarabjit’s name is not mentioned. The other ‘evidence’ against him is his alleged confession, but we all know how ‘confessions’ are obtained in our countries.
“Moreover, Sarabjit has already spent over 22 years on death row, with a Damocles sword hanging over his head all the time. This can make anyone go mad. Does he not now deserve mercy (even assuming he was guilty)?”