New Delhi: Indian nationals jailed in US prisons and US citizens incarcerated in India could get to serve out the remainder of their sentences in their own country under the terms of a bilateral treaty being explored by the two governments, according to officials of the home ministry and the ministry of external affairs dealing with the matter.
Such treaties are designed to relieve some of the special hardships that fall upon convicts imprisoned far from home, and to facilitate the rehabilitation of these offenders in familiar surroundings.
“Two weeks ago ministry of external affairs floated this proposal and it was sent to the various ministries, including home and social empowerment ministries,” a senior home ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
“The said treaty would allow US nationals, who are serving their sentences in India, to go back to their country and serve the rest of the sentence term in a US jail. The same would also be applicable to the Indian nationals serving sentences in US jails,” the official added.
Another home ministry official said the proposal had been drafted and put before home minister P. Chidambaram for his approval.
According to the Indian officials, the treaty is also being considered by the US government.
The development comes at a time when India is trying to put pressure on the US government for the extradition of Warren Anderson, who was chief executive officer of Union Carbide Corp. when tonnes of toxic gas leaked from a Union Carbide pesticides plant in Bhopal in December 1984, killing thousands of people and maiming thousands more.
Anderson is facing criminal charges, including culpable homicide not amounting to murder, voluntarily causing hurt, and criminal conspiracy, which attracts a punishment of 10 years in prison. Some 3,500 people died in the immediate aftermath of the gas leak and around 100,000 were affected.
Anderson was arrested soon after the tragedy took place, but he left the country after being let off on bail. The US department of state has denied his custody to Indian law enforcement agencies ever since, stating that the request of the Indian government does not meet the requirements under an existing extradition treaty.
India and the US are looking to sign the proposed new treaty within six months, but officials familiar with the matter said it is likely to take longer.
“Negotiations and signing of any international treaty usually takes more than a year or two. At present, both the governments are working at their ends to draft the proposal. The negotiations are yet to start as it involves alignment of procedures relating to each other’s legal systems and laws,” said a senior official in the ministry of external affairs.
Once the home ministry “finishes the draft, we will facilitate the signing of the agreement”, said the official, who, too, didn’t want to be named. “It is unlikely that it would be signed during US President Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi in November this year.”
According to the US Department of State website, the US has such bilateral treaties with Bolivia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Thailand and Turkey, and is a party to two multilateral conventions, the Council of Europe convention on the transfer of sentenced persons, and the Inter-American convention on serving criminal sentences abroad.
The US has similar agreements with more than 50 countries. India, too, has similar agreements with countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the UK.
Mint couldn’t immediately ascertain the number of Indians imprisoned in US jails and the number of US citizens doing time in Indian prisons.
India-born convicts in US jails include fashion designer Anand Jon Alexander, who in August last year was sentenced to 59 years in prison after being found guilty of sexually assaulting aspiring models.