“Free Dr Chishty” – Indian Supreme Court Justice Katju appeals to PM Manmohan Singh

An Indian Supreme Court judge has sent a “personal appeal” to Indian

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, urging him to release on
“humanitarian grounds” Dr Chishty, the elderly Pakistani virologist in
Indian prison since 1992.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 Ph. D. 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 willbe 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 A.I.R.1961 S.C. 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.

Yours Respectfully
Markandey Katju

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.”

courtesy Beena Sarwar

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