Justice Markandey Katju of the Indian Supreme Court had in a judgement of March this year urged the Pakistan government to release Gopal Das, an Indian prisoner on "humanitarian grounds". Soon after Aman ki Asha publicised that judgement, which also quoted verses by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Shakespeare, President Asif Ali Zardari responded positively to the Indian judge's appeal and remitted the remainder of Das' sentence.
Now, a day after the Pakistan Supreme Court rejected a similar petition filed by former law minister Iqbal Haider on behalf of Dr Chishty, Justice Katju of the Indian Supreme Court has written to the Indian Prime Minister, urging him to pardon and release Dr. Chishty.
Currently on vacation in California, Justice Katju has been monitoring progress on this case and had earlier sent a request to Home Minister P. Chidambaram, urging him to advise the President of India to pardon Dr Chishty under Article 72 of the Constitution.
His June 15, 2011 letter to Dr Manmohan Singh, sent through Member of Parliament Rajiv Shukla, reads:
Dear Mr Prime Minister,
I am making this appeal to you not as a Supreme Court Judge but as a human being, requesting for release of Dr Khalil Chishty, a Pakistani national, who is old and infirm and in Ajmer jail, on humanitarian grounds under Article 72 of the Constitution.
Dr Chishty was an eminent professor of Virology in Karachi Medical College, and holds a PhD from Edinburgh University. In 1992 he visited Ajmer to meet his ailing mother. There was a dispute between his family in Ajmer and their collaterals, and in the violence one person was killed. Among others, Dr Chishty was also implicated.
The criminal case kept pending for 18 years, during which period Dr. Chishty was granted bail but with stringent conditions that he will not leave Almer and abide by some other conditions. In 2010 the case was decided, and the accused, including Dr Chishty were convicted under Article 302 and given life sentence.
He filed an appeal before the Rajasthan High Court, where it is still pending, but the bail application has been rejected. One does not know when the appeal will be heard, and in the meantime Dr Chishty may die in jail since he is so old that he has to be physically carried. He is also a heart patient and has a hip fracture. It will be a disgrace for our country if he dies in jail.
I am not commenting anything on the merits of the case as it is a judicial proceeding. However, apart from the judicial proceeding there is the executive power in the President and the Governor to grant a pardon.
Mahesh Bhatt and others have appealed to the President of India under Article 72 of the Constitution, as well as to the Governor of Rajasthan under Article 161 to grant a pardon, so that he may spend the last days of his life in his home in Karachi. I join them in this appeal. The relevant papers are with the Home Minister Mr Chidambaram.
It has been held by the Supreme Court in Nanavati vs State of Bombay AIR 1961 SC that pardon can be granted even when a case is pending.
Please therefore do the needful in this connection. Time is of the essence of the matter since Dr Chishty has not many years to live. If you need any further details please give an audience to Mahesh Bhat (whose email address has been copied) and others who signed the petition for pardon.
Needless to mention, if a pardon is granted it will enhance the prestige of India.
As Shakespeare said in Merchant of Venice: "The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven unto the earth beneath."
In similar circumstances pardon was granted to Gopal Das by the Pakistan president.
Justice Katju has been active behind the scenes in trying to secure attention for this case. He is, as he says in an email to friends, "normally a very publicity shy person, but in this case I had to come out into the open, as my conscience was deeply disturbed."
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Page 194 of 175
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