Saturday, May 4, 2013

“Without the involvement of jail authorities, Sarabjit could not have been attacked,” says Justice AS Gill


May 2013;-

Two years ago inside the precincts of Lahore's Kot Lakhpat jail, retired Justice Amarbir Singh Gill had met a "tall and able-bodied" Sarabjit Singh, whose main worry was to return to his family in India. The next time he saw Sarabjit, he was lying comatose on a hospital bed, linked to a jumble of heavy medical equipment. "It was shocking, so shocking to see him in this condition," Justice Gill told The Sunday Standard. He had traveled along with retired Justice M A Khan as part of the joint Indo-Pak judicial committee to examine the condition of prisoners in both Indian and Pakistani jails.

In April 2011, Gill met Sarabjit inside the Lahore jail, when Indian prisoners were lined up for interviews with panel members. "He didn't talk much at that time. He was the silent type. The jail authorities had no complaint about his conduct," Gill said. Gill remembers embracing Sarabjit towards the end of the visit. "I hugged him. That was my way of reassuring him," he reminisced.

With his last memory of Sarabjit linked to the ventilator, he said, "I was probably the last Indian to see him alive". This was the first time that the committee had visited a prisoner in hospital, as their usual trip was limited to the central jails in various main cities.

Sarabjit's death had a grim irony since the two Indian justices arrived in Pakistan a few hours after Sarabjit was brutally attacked on April 26. After the hospital visit, the panel members went to Kot Lakhpat jail the next day, May 1.

When Justice Gill visited the Kot Lakhpat Jail after Sarabjit's attack, the jail authorities gave a briefing on the attack, but did not take the panel to the death row cell. "The jail authorities said that the death row prisoners could get aggressive," said Justice Gill, who retired from Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2003.

They met with the only other Indian death row convict, Kripal Singh, who stayed in the cell next to Sarabjit. "He (Kripal) told that he heard shrieks and cries from Sarabjit. But he could only listen to them helplessly.
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