Creative Producer: Naman Shah
In light of the death penalty awarded to eight former Indian Navy personnel in Qatar, we take a look at the total number of Indians in prisons of foreign countries, including undertrials.
In response to a question by MP Vijay Vasanth in the Parliament in July 2023, Minister of External Affairs, Dr. S. Jaishankar, revealed that there are 8,330 Indians imprisoned in 90 foreign countries. This number includes those convicted and undertrial.
Many countries do not reveal detailed information about their prisoners due to strong privacy laws
Countries with Highest Number of Indian Prisoners
The highest number of Indian convicts and undertrials are in United Arab Emirates with 1,611 prisoners. This is followed by Saudi Arabia with 1,461 prisoners.
A total of 4,630 Indian prisoners are in six Gulf countries which accounts for 55% of the total prisoners.
India’s neighbouring countries – Nepal, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar – account for 1,851 prisoners (22.22%). Nepal with 1,222 prisoners is the neighbouring country which has the highest number of Indian prisoners, followed by Pakistan with 308 prisoners.
European countries like United Kingdom (249), Italy (157), Germany (77), Cyprus (51) and France (40) have significant number of Indian prisoners.
How does the Government Help Indians Imprisoned Abroad?
In case of the former Indian Navy personnel facing death penalty in Qatar, India's foreign ministry has called the judgement "shocking". The MEA said that it would not comment given the "confidential nature of proceedings" but assured that it would contest the judgment.
According to S Jaishankar's response in the Parliament in July 2023, “Indian Missions/Posts abroad remain vigilant and closely monitor the incidents of Indian nationals being put in jail in foreign countries for violation/ alleged violation of local laws. As soon as the information about the detention/arrest of an Indian national is received by an Indian Mission/Post, it immediately gets in touch with the local Foreign Office and other concerned local authorities to get consular access to the detained/arrested Indian national to ascertain the facts of the case, confirm his or her Indian nationality and ensure his or her welfare.”
Apart from consular assistance, Indian Missions and Posts also provide legal and financial aid to Indian prisoners.
Indian government also follow up on the release and repatriation of Indian prisoners and also pursues for the grant of amnesties/commutation of sentences of Indian prisoners. Since 2014, around 4,597 Indian nationals have received pardons or reduction of sentences by foreign governments as a result of negotiations by the Indian government through various channels.
India has signed Treaties for Transfer of Sentenced Persons (TSP) with 31 countries. According to this treaty, Indian prisoners can be brought back to India to serve the remainder of their sentence and vice versa. However, TSP is not applicable to those awarded a death sentence. India has also signed two multi-lateral conventions – Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad and Council of Europe Convention on Transfer of Sentenced Persons for the transfer of Indian prisoners from abroad.
India has also signed extradition treaties with 50 countries and extradition agreements with 12 countries. The Extradition Act 1962, forms the legislative basis on which extradition proceedings are conducted between India and the foreign country.