A brief petition was filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday which sought to extend the implementation of the reduction of prison terms on the basis of educational qualification, acquired during the prison term, to prisoners belonging to religious minorities.
The petitioner, Kashif Masih, argued that the Constitution of Pakistan protects the life of every citizen under Article 25, adding that Article 10-A guarantees citizens the right to a fair trial, while Article 20 guarantees citizens the right to profess, propagate and practice their own religion.
Thus, on the basis of constitutional rights, the petitioner argued that section 215 of the Prisons Rule 1978 grants remissions of prison sentences through education only to Muslims, including reduced sentences for Muslims who complete the Holy Quran.
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Masih argued that this policy did not extend to prisoners belonging to religious minorities and therefore interfered with their constitutional and legal rights.
“According to the relevant rules, prisoners belonging to a religious minority are entitled to a remission of school sentence upon completion of formal education and in particular the memorization or completion of their holy book such as the Vedas, Geeta , Upanishads, Pali Canon, Holy Bible, Granth Sahib, Torah and Zabur,” the petitioner argued.
Masih further contended that according to the Punjab Prisons Department, there are 1,188 prisoners in the province who belong to the Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities and none of them have been granted a remission until here.
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“The act of the defendants, including the Secretary of the Legal Department, the Secretary of the Department of Human Rights and Minority Affairs, the Punjab Prisons Ministry and the Inspector General of Prisons, is in violation of Articles 9, 14, 20, 22, 25 and Article 36 of the Constitution and No. VII of Schedule IV of Rules 215 of the Pakistan Prisons Rules 1978,” Masih added.
He further implored the court to treat all citizens equally, uphold the dignity of human life and honor freedom as enshrined in the Constitution.
Masih pleaded with the court to order the Respondents and ensure that the aforementioned articles providing for equal rights of remission in education for minority prisoners are granted upon memorization and completion of their sacred books.
LHC Judge Rasaal Hasan Syed demanded a response from the Inspector General of Prisons within two weeks.