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How long will you keep him, SC asks Centre about Pak national lodged in detention centre

New Delhi, Mar 21 (PTI) How long will you keep him, the Supreme Court Monday asked the Centre after it sought two weeks to take a call on the status of a Pakistani national who has been languishing in a detention centre here for seven years as Islamabad refuses to accept him as its citizen.

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant granted two weeks to Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj to seek instruction on whether 62-year-old Mohammad Qamar can be released to enable him to apply for Indian citizenship as his five-children are Indian citizens.

At the outset, senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for Qamar, said the government is saying that the order of the Supreme Court for release of foreigners lodged in detention centres is with respect to Bangladeshi nationals and not those from Pakistan.

“How can such a distinction be made? We are only seeking enforcement of this court’s order”, Parikh said.

Nataraj submitted, “How can a Pakistani citizen claim equal rights as an Indian citizen? He has no right to do so.”

The bench said, “The question is how long you can keep him. You seek instruction as to what could be done. We are giving you two weeks’ time.”

On February 28, the court had asked the Centre to take a call on his release for a brief period to enable him to apply for Indian citizenship.

It had said that Qamar has served his sentence of three years and six months and after that he has been lodged in a detention centre since 2015, awaiting his deportation.

At the time when Pakistan has refused to accept him as its citizen, how long can you keep a person inside?”, the court had asked the Centre.

Qamar was arrested on August 8, 2011 from Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, and was held guilty by a court here for overstaying his visa. He was sentenced to three years and six months in jail and a fine of Rs 500.

Having completed his sentence on February 6, 2015, Qamar, a father of five, was sent to the detention centre at Lampur in Narela here on February 7, 2015 for deportation to Pakistan. However, the Pakistani government did not accept his deportation and he has been languishing at the detention centre.

According to his daughter and son, who have moved the Supreme Court through advocate Srishti Agnihotri, their father Qamar alias Mohammad Kamil was born in India in 1959.

Qamar had gone with his mother from India to Pakistan as a child of around 7-8 years in 1967-1968 on a visa to meet his relatives there. However, his mother died there, and he remained in Pakistan in the care of his relatives , the plea of habeas corpus filed at the Supreme Court said.

It said that Qamar, on attaining adulthood, came back to India on a Pakistani passport in around 1989-1990 and got married to Shehnaaj Begum, an Indian citizen, in Meerut.

Out of this wedlock, five children were born, the plea said, adding that Qamar has no documentary proof to show that he had gone with his mother to Pakistan around 1967-68 and his mother died there and therefore, his story has not been believed.

Nevertheless, the undisputed fact is that he came to India around 1989-90 on a passport of Pakistan and did not renew his visa due to lack of education and, subsequently, got married here, it said.

In Meerut, he was doing menial jobs and residing there along with his family, who all have Aadhaar cards issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India, the plea said.

Initially, Qamar filed a plea before the Delhi High Court in 2017, praying for his release so that he can stay with his family.

During the arguments, his counsel had submitted that Qamar would apply for Indian citizenship in accordance with law and also make a representation to the respective authorities giving particulars of all the family members who would stand security in case he is released from the detention centre.

The High Court, in its order dated March 9, 2017, disposed of his plea directing that his representation be considered as per law.

Qamar’s son, as per the order of the High Court, made a representation to the civil authority on August 11, 2017, under the provisions of the Foreigners Act to allow his father to reside with his family and take proper steps for registering him as an Indian citizen and also for getting proper medical treatment for his illness.

The plea said that meanwhile, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on April 13, 2020 passed an order in the suo motu petition where it directed the Centre to release foreigner detainees who have been under detention for two years or more on certain terms on furnishing a bond in the sum of Rs. 5,000 with two sureties of the like sum of Indian citizens.

Once again, Qamar’s children moved the High Court seeking relief on the grounds of orders of the Supreme Court, in which the Centre submitted that it was prepared to take a humanitarian approach for releasing the father of the petitioners, but Uttar Pradesh [UP] was not willing to do the same.

It had put on record the UP government’s reply which said that Qamar is divorced and therefore, there is no justifiable ground for him to live in India and his release from the detention centre is not recommended.

Thereafter, the High Court said that the petitioners should approach the Supreme Court for relief.

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