NGO to file mercy petition before Governor for her release

The world is not short of stories that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit over fear, hardship and despair. However, there are some that do not go beyond despair; fate does not shine on them and the human spirit lies perplexed, in a state of limbo, but not dead or defeated. Basanti Pillai’s story belongs to the latter category.

Originally from Jammu and Kashmir, Basanti (45) is an inmate of the women’s ward of the Jaipur central jail. Recently, she was diagnosed with terminal-stage ovarian cancer. She is to be released from prison in 2019 at the completion of her sentence. About 10 years ago, she was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. A few years before, she had married a man from Mumbai who worked with a drug trafficking gang.

“This man, a certain Mr. Pillai, took her on one of his smuggling trips on the pretext of visiting pilgrimages in southern India. They stopped over in Rajasthan for a few days and were arrested, along with other members of his gang, with a large consignment of drugs,” says Sister Mariola, State coordinator of the Prison Ministry India (PMI), a voluntary organisation working for the release and rehabilitation of prisoners in ‘moral distress’.”

Five years after they were arrested and sentenced, Basanti’s husband died. The PMI has been trying to get her released on humanitarian grounds by filing a mercy petition before Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva. However, they are faced with a peculiar situation. Her case file, which is required to file a petition, is with a lawyer hired by traffickers to represent themselves in the case. “The lawyer is refusing to give us her file unless we give him Rs. 55, 000, which was promised to him by the gang members who hired him,” says Sister Mariola.

On Saturday, Basanti was admitted to Sawai Man Singh hospital here for her last chemotherapy session.

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