New Delhi: After 20 years of stay in India, 82-year-old Pakistani microbiologist Mohammed Khalil Chishti, facing life imprisonment in a murder case, was today permitted by the Supreme Court to visit Pakistan for a temporary stay, subject to certain conditions.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and J Chelameswar said Chishti shall deposit his passport at the Indian High Commission in Pakistan and furnish as security Rs five lakh in cash within two weeks before the Supreme Court registry.
The apex court directed that Chishti shall return to India by November one, as it has decided to expedite the hearing of the appeal filed by him challenging his conviction in a murder case in Rajasthan.
The apex court said it will hear the appeal proceedings from November 20. Initially, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Mohan Parasaran had insisted that Chishti’s local contacts in India should give a surety on his behalf to secure his presence during the appeal proceedings. However, the bench refrained from imposing any such condition.
The bench further clarified that Chishti’s release is subject to the fulfillment of the two conditions imposed upon him. Earlier on May 4, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear Chishti’s plea to visit his country and had sought the Centre’s response to it.
Chishti had been granted bail by the apex court on April 9. Held guilty in a 20-year-old murder case, he had been serving life term in a Rajasthan’s Ajmer jail. The apex court had granted bail to Chishti on humanitarian grounds, but had asked him not to leave Ajmer till further orders.
Earlier, the Centre had objected to allowing Chishti to go to Pakistan temporarily, saying he may not return to India. The ASG had submitted that there is no bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan on ensuring the return of any convict who is enlarged on bail.
The apex court, however, had said it would like to consider Chishti’s plea in view of the special circumstances of his case. The bench had said Chishti was an eminent scientist of global repute and is 82-years-old with no previous criminal record and the issues involved are bilateral relations between the two countries.
Senior counsel U U Lalit, appearing for Chishti, had pleaded that he be granted permission to visit Pakistan as a special case since he was suffering from various geriatric problems and was confined to Ajmer for the past 20 years and had served one-and-a-half years of his sentence.
Chishti had come to see his ailing mother in 1992 when he got embroiled in a brawl, and, in the ensuing melee, one of his neighbours was shot dead while his nephew got injured. Born in Ajmer to a prosperous family of caretakers of the Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti shrine, Chishti was studying in Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947 and chose to stay there.
The bench, which had granted bail to Chishti, had also acceded to consider his plea to let him return to Karachi and had asked him to file a separate application for it.
The same was filed later. Lalit had also pleaded that his client at least be allowed to live in Delhi. But the Rajasthan government had opposed this plea, saying that the visa issued to him only permitted his stay in Ajmer and nearby areas. The court had then asked Chishti not to leave Ajmer till further orders.
After a prolonged trial that stretched 18 years, Chishti was held guilty in the murder case and was awarded life sentence on January 31, last year by Ajmer sessions court.
He had earlier also been granted bail by the sessions court during the trial but was ordered not to leave Ajmer. He was re-arrested to serve the sentence after he was convicted. Chishti, who suffers from heart, hearing and other ailments, had lived in his brother’s poultry farm till his conviction. His case came to light when Justice Markandeya Katju, the then Supreme Court judge, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging that the Pakistani national be pardoned on humanitarian grounds.
An eminent professor of virology in Karachi Medical College, Chisti holds a PhD from Edinburgh University. (PTI)