Following press release issued by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative ( CHRI), an independent, non-partisan, international non-governmental organisation, mandated to ensure the practical realisation of human rights in the countries of the Commonwealth.
( June 6, 2017, Alwar/New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) A 66 year old Sri Lankan national who spent 4 years in jail waiting for the completion of bureaucratic formalities, left for home a free man today ( Jun 5, 2017).
Rocky D’Souza, who said he came to India in 2000 for business was prosecuted for overstaying his visa period and completed his sentence on 3rd May, 2013.
His release was possible after an intervention by CHRI and collaboration with the Sri Lankan Embassy in New Delhi, the Alwar Detention Centre in Rajasthan and the Ministry of External Affairs. CHRI has followed this case since August, 2016 and facilitated the process by pressing on the authorities to provide the relevant documents and travel tickets necessary for his return. This was issued in May, 2017. With only an incomplete mobile number and no address, tracing his place of origin and his family members was a challenging task.
When informed of his release, Rocky expressed gratitude and said he “wanted to return to Colombo to help his mother settle a family property dispute.”
Rocky’s detention, for the four years, like that of many others, was illegal. Had procedural requirements such as prompt nationality verification and consular access at the time of detention been complied with, his wait for freedom would not have been delayed. His case highlights the lacuna that exists in the policy for foreign national prisoners, which leads to unnecessary complications in the repatriation process.
Ms. Sanghmitra Singh, Project Officer with CHRI’s Access to Justice (Prison Reforms) Programme who worked on this case says, “Unless the Indian Government develops a time-bound legislation or guidelines for repatriation, there will continue to be such cases of unjust, prolonged detention.”
CHRI Director, Sanjoy Hazarika says that such cases highlight the problem faced by foreign national prisoners in India. He said that “Civil society organisations have to work together in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders to bring freedom to such prisoners”.