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A Latest Judgment of Supreme Court on the Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003

The Hon'ble Supreme Court's division bench of Justice Nageshwar Rao and Justice B.R. Gavai was hearing a case involving an Indian who was convicted by the Supreme Court of Mauritius.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court was hearing an appeal filed by the Union of India against Shaikh Istiyaq Ahmed, an Indian national who was sentenced to 26 years in prison by the Supreme Court of Mauritius for possessing 152.8 grammes of heroin under the Dangerous Drugs Act's Sections 30(1)(f)(II), 47(2), and 5(2). In 2016, he was transferred to India under the Repatriation of Prisoners Act of 2003 and a 2005 prisoner transfer agreement between India and Mauritius.

He filed a plea under Section 13 (6) of the 2003 Act, requesting that his sentence be reduced to 10 years under Section 21 (b) of the Narcotics, Drugs, and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1994, following his return to India. In the same letter, he also requested that the sentence he had already spent in Mauritius be taken into account when amending his release date. On December 3, 2018, the accused was informed by the Ministry of Home Affairs that the time he served in custody will be lowered from his 26-year sentence. However, on the same day, another order issued, rejecting his petition for a sentence reduction from 26 to 10 years. Shaikh Ahmed, the petitioner, filed a writ petition at the Bombay High Court, appealing the aforementioned order rejecting his request for a lower sentence. The High Court granted the Writ Petition, allowing the Central Government to file its present appeal with the Supreme Court.

Union of India:
The Union of India's argument was based on the Repatriation of Prisoners Act's statement of objects and reasons, which stated that the receiving State is bound by the legal nature and duration of the statement as determined by the transferring State, although the sentence's enforcement is governed by the receiving State's law. Ms. Madhavi Divan further argued that if the terms of service agreed upon between India and then another contracting State are met, the Central Government may authorise the prisoner's transfer under Section 12 of the 2003 Act. Under Section 13 (6) of the 2003 Act, the Central Government has the authority to modify the prison sentence imposed against the contracting State's prisoner if it is inconsistent with Indian law.

The Contentions Raised by The Respondent:
On behalf of the respondent, Senior Advocate AM Dar defended the High Court's judgment, arguing that the government had provided no justifications for dismissing the respondent's plea for a sentence reduction. He claimed that the respondent was being unfairly treated because the government had previously reduced the sentences of other people deported to India. He also mentioned a Bombay High Court judgement that lowered the petitioner's sentence from 30 to 20 years.

He went on to say that the penalty given by the Supreme Court of Mauritius is incompatible with the punishment that could be given under Section 21 (b) of the NDPS Act for a similar offence. The amount of heroin identified in the Respondent's possession is an intermediate level, according to the NDPS Act, and the maximum sentence that can be imposed on the prisoner is just 10 years.

As a result, the Hon'ble Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the Mauritius Supreme Court's sentence would be binding on India and allowed the appeal after setting aside the Bombay High Court's decision.


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