After making a plea to authorities, Press Council chief Markandey Katju has now sought the intervention of Congress president Sonia Gandhi for release of Khalil Chishty, an elderly Pakistani virologist, jailed for 19 years in a murder case, on humanitarian grounds.

“I am making this appeal to you in the name of humanity for release of Dr. Khalil Chishty, who is at present in the Ajmer Central Jail, so that he can go back to his home and family in Karachi, Pakistan,” Mr. Katju has written in a letter to Gandhi.

“I had made an appeal to the Prime Minister Shri Manmohan Singh in the month of April 2011 requesting him to grant a pardon under Article 72 of the Constitution to Dr. Chishty,” Mr. Katju said in the letter to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson. The letter to Dr. Singh was written when Mr. Katju was the Supreme Court judge.

Mr. Katju has further written that the Prime Minister referred him to the Home Minister but to no avail.

Another letter to Rajasthan Governor Shivraj Patil did not receive a reply despite the fact that he (Mr. Katju) was a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, Mr. Katju said.

“In these circumstances, I make an appeal directly to you, as my appeal to the aforementioned three authorities has been to no avail. I may mention that according to the decision of the Supreme Court in the Nanavati's case, AIR 1961 S.C, 112 a pardon can be granted even if a case is pending,” he told Ms. Gandhi.

“Dr. Khalil Chishty is an old man of about 80 years and does not have very long to live. It would be a disgrace for our country if he dies in jail. On the other hand, the prestige of our country will go up if he is released forthwith,” Mr. Katju said, adding Dr. Chishty was suffering from several ailments.

Mr. Katju in his letter also said the Pakistan government had earlier released an Indian following a similar appeal by him.

“The Pakistan government honoured my appeal and released Gopal Das who returned to India. I am sad that while the Pakistan government honoured my appeal, the Indian government has not done so,” Mr. Katju said.

In the letter, Mr. Katju has also written that Dr. Chishty's aged wife, daughter and grandson had met him in Delhi and wanted to meet the UPA chairperson as well.

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