In a letter to UK Sikh MP Preet Kaur Gill, UK’s Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, Mark Field has stated that British citizen Jagtar Singh Johal, who is lodged in a Punjab jail, is “fine and had access to all essentials required”. He, however, informed UK Parliament that British consular officials were yet to get permission for a private meeting with Johal.
On November 13, Preet Gill had written a letter to UK government raising concerns over possible human rights violations in the treatment being given to Jagtar Singh Johal, who was arrested by Punjab police for alleged role in the series of murders in Punjab. Mark Field wrote letter back on December 1, and the letter was received by Gill on December 12.
In his reply, the minister said, “I appreciate that this is a very difficult time for Johal and his family, and they have my deepest sympathies during the current situation. We take any allegations of torture and mistreatment extremely seriously, and have clear processes in place to ensure we can respond to allegations without putting individuals at further risk of harm.”
It further added, “Following senior representations to the Indian authorities, consular access was granted on November 15 and consular staff were able to visit Johal on November 16, 24 and 25. “During these visits, Johal has confirmed that he was ‘fine’ and had all the essentials required. He now has daily access to his legal representative, and consular officials are also maintaining regular contact with his lawyer. Consular officials have also been present at Mr Johal’s recent court hearings,” reads letter.
The minister also revealed that “consular officials in London have also engaged with Johal’s family, and I met Johal’s brother and his MP, Martin Docherty-Hughes, to discuss the case on Monday, November 27”.
He added: “The Foreign Secretary also raised the case with Sushma Swaraj, the Minister of External Affairs of India, on November 23. I also raised this matter in a telephone conversation with the Indian High Commissioner on November 29. Please be assured that we will continue to provide assistance to Johal while he remains in detention, with a firm focus on his welfare, and will remain engaged with his family in the UK.”
Replying to a question raised by Bim Afolami, Conservative MP from Hitchin and Harpenden, in Parliament on December 12, Mark field said, “The Foreign Secretary raised the case with the Indian Minister of External Affairs on November 23 and consular officials continue to reiterate our request for a private meeting with Mr Johal with the Indian government.”
Replying to similarly query from UK Sikh MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi on December 11, Mark field said, “Recent visit to Johal was made on December 7 and we continue to discuss with authorities in India our request for private meeting with Johal.”
Narinderjit Singh, the General Secretary of the Sikh Federation (UK) said, “Many MPs will be incensed with the line now being taken by the Foreign Office Minister given the promise of ‘extreme action’ in the Commons three weeks ago. The Foreign Office has been negligent in being unable to secure private access to Jagtar.”