The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Central government to follow up on the steps taken by the authorities concerned to trace Indian Army officer, Captain Sanjit Bhattacharjee, who went missing from the India-Pakistan border 25 years ago, and provide information to his 81-year-old mother, on a quarterly basis.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and J.B. Pardiwala said it is really very unfortunate, 25 years, the man is missing and nobody took up the cause, and he is presumed to be dead and homage already paid.
The top court made this observation while hearing the plea of the army officer’s mother, Kamla Bhattacharjee, who was represented by advocate Saurabh Mishra.
According to the petitioner on April 19, 1997, a platoon of 17 soldiers, including her son went for patrolling at the border, in the Rann of Kutch. On 20 April, 1997, 15 soldiers had returned without him and another platoon member, Lance Naik Ram Bahadur Thapa. Both Bhattacharjee and Thapa have been missing since then.
Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj submitted that all efforts have been made to trace the two soldiers, but Pakistan had not yet acknowledged their presence, and the matter can be taken up only through diplomatic channels by the Ministry of External Affairs.
The court had, on March 11, agreed to examine a plea by the mother of the missing Army officer, who, she claimed, was lodged in a Pakistani jail for over 24 years, seeking direction to the Central government to take immediate measures for his repatriation.
The petitioner claimed she had received information that her son was lodged in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail.
“The petitioner’s son in the span of the past 23 years has not been given any opportunity to state his case before the appropriate authority or allowed to communicate with his family members,” said the plea.
In March last year, the top court had sought reply from the Centre on the plea.
The petitioner’s husband died in November 2020, after waiting for his son. The petitioner’s family in April 2004 received a letter from the Ministry of Defence stating that Bhattacharjee was presumed to be dead.