PATIALA: Punjab government’s appeal for transfer of Sikh prisoners languishing in other states has landed it into a catch-22 situation.Karnataka government on Monday informed that it would release terror convict Gurdeep Singh Khera lodged in Gulbarga jail but only on a reciprocal basis.
On Sunday, Sikh activist Gurbax Singh Khalsa and several other Sikh organizations threatened to restart agitation for the release of six former militants, barely two months after the state government had heeded to their demand and released four of the six militants on parole. Karnataka’s condition means that Punjab will have to hand over at least one prisoner lodged in Punjab jail and belongs to the southern state, for gaining the custody of Khera.
The situation turned paradoxical as the jail authorities in Punjab are yet to locate any prisoner of Karnataka origin languishing in state prisons, sources said.
Pertinently, in December last year when agitation to secure release of six former militants was at its peak, the state government had reportedly taken up the matter with Karnataka government to facilitate Khera’s parole.
Khera was convicted for life sentence under TADA Explosive Act and had applied for transfer to Punjab under reciprocal transfer arrangement. “Kindly inform whether it is acceptable to your office and give necessary permission for the same” reads a letter sent by ADGP and IGP (Prisons) of Karnataka to their Punjab counterparts, a copy of which is with TOI. Advocate Harpal Singh Cheema, president of SAD (Panch Pardhani), who is also pursuing case of release of the militants, said Khera (52), was arrested in 1990. He was convicted in two separate terror cases – 1996 in Delhi and 2001 in Karnataka. He has is in prison since the last 24 years, Cheema said.
“We have received the communication. However, the file is pending with the state government as it is unlikely that any prisoner of Karnataka origin is at present lodged in Punjab jails. The decision for the future course of action has to be taken by the state government,” said a senior officer of Punjab Jail department.
Interestingly, the communication was dispatched in December last year, when 44-day long fast by Bhai Gurbux Singh Khalsa and agitations by several Sikh organizations both had forced the Punjab government to facilitate release of four of the six militants on parole, including three militants involved in assassination former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh.
Exchange not mandatory
Former DGP (Prisons) Shashi Kant said, “Condition of reciprocal transfer doesn’t render it mandatory that a state is liable to transfer prisoner in exchange of another. If situation so arise, the exchange depends upon how forcefully the particular state government takes up the case with its counterpart. Gurdeep Singh Khera’s case is pending with the state government for the past two months. And, even if no Karnataka-origin prisoner is lodged in Punjab jails, Khera can still be shifted to Punjab if the state government forcefully gives its consent.”