He was detained for entering the country illegally in 2005 and sentenced to one-year imprisonment for the offence. The one year turned into seven and still there was no sign of freedom for Shaikh Abdul Aziz.
Last year, the Delhi High Court had taken up cudgels on Aziz’s behalf and sought answers from the government regarding his detention.
Now, Aziz, who was earlier labelled a “terror suspect” and detained as a high-security prisoner under the J&K Public Security Act, may be given a long-term visa as well as identity papers to stay and work in India.
The Home Ministry on Wednesday informed the High Court that Aziz has been declared a “stateless individual” since his antecedents could not be established.
The affidavit filed by the ministry further said Aziz could approach the passport office to get identification papers. Once this was done, he could obtain a long-term visa, which will make him eligible to live and work in India.
During the hearing on Wednesday before the High Court bench of Justices P K Bhasin and J R Midha, the Central government Counsel Richa Kapoor said the passport office could be directed to consider Aziz’s application immediately.
The court directed that a senior officer from the passport office and a senior officer from the Home Ministry be present in the court on Thursday with suggestions on proposed measures to ensure that foreigners who have served sentences are not detained for such long periods.
Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan, the amicus curiae in the case, was directed to submit his suggestions to tackle the problem of detainees on Thursday.
At present, there are a total of 36 foreigners in detention who have completed their sentence and are awaiting deportation. According to documents submitted before the court, at least seven of these detainees are those whose nationalities are as yet unconfirmed.
Four of them have been in detention for over one year. Several others are in custody as undertrials or are serving their sentences.
Aziz was arrested in Kashmir in 2005 and sentenced to one-year imprisonment by the judicial magistrate there. He was kept in high-security detention and then shifted to the Tihar Jail in 2009 so that the External Affairs Ministry could begin deportation proceedings.
In 2013, the High Court directed that he be taken out of jail and sent to the Lampur detention centre for foreigners.
Aziz had initially claimed to be from Saudi Arabia, but the Saudi authorities said there was no record of him having ever lived in their country.
The investigation agencies then looked into the J&K police claim that Aziz had entered the country via Nepal from Bangladesh, but the Bangladesh government also failed to acknowledge him. In April this year, the High Court awarded Aziz Rs 2 lakh as compensation for his prolonged detention, to be paid by the Centre, Delhi government and J&K government.