After spending over a year in jail, 80-year-old Pakistani virologist Mohammed Khalil Chisti was on Wednesday released on bail from Rajasthan's Ajmer Central Jail following the Supreme Court order two days back. Having undergone part of a life term for the murder of a kinsman in the premises of the mausoleum of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in 1992, Dr. Chisti was wheeled out of the jail premises around 4.15 pm and was put an ambulance on way to his brother's house in the town.
“I am extremely happy to be out of jail. It was Allah who did it!” the octogenarian Dr. Chisti, for whose clemency human rights activists all over the subcontinent have been clamouring for the past one year, told media persons in an interaction soon after. “I pray that prisoners on both the sides of India and Pakistan should not be dealt with on political lines. Their cases should be treated in a humanitarian way… this is not for India and Pakistan alone. It should be the case all over the world,” he said, with considerable clarity for an ailing person who had been incarcerated for over 14.
The microbiologist, who said he would set up a virology institute if he ever returned to his hometown of Karachi, did not hide his desire to go back home to be with his immediate family.
His relatives in Ajmer rejoiced at the freeing of the ailing family elder and distributed sweets in the neighbourhood. Dr. Chisti's brother is expected to reach Ajmer from Karachi on Saturday. His wife, daughter and sister are in the process of procuring visas for the family re-union.
“This is an extremely important development,” Kavita Srivastava, general secretary of Rajasthan People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), who oversaw Dr. Chisti's release, told The Hindu. “Yet the effort would be complete when he finally goes home,” she said.
With the Supreme Court order on bail in hand, the release was a smooth affair. “The authorities at the Fast Track Court 1 of Kamal Saxena were very prompt once we handed over the relevant papers. As the Supreme Court had suggested, the court expedited the matter and by 3.30 p.m. we could carry the orders for release to the Central jail,” Ms. Srivastava said.
Dr. Chisti was released on two securities of Rs.50, 000 each — deposited by relatives Jameel Chisty and Inamul Haq — and a personal bond of Rs.1 lakh. Dr. Chisti will have to remain in Ajmer, the place where he grew up and went on to live with restricted movement for another 19 years, till the court finally decides on his freedom.
Dr. Chisti thanked the Supreme Court profusely for “undoing the wrongs” done to him in the past. The lower court in Ajmer had pronounced life imprisonment upon him on January 31, 2011. The Rajasthan High Court then rejected his appeal the following December, following which activist groups and the family members moved the Supreme Court. A clemency petition for Dr. Chisti, moved by the PUCL and other human rights groups, was cleared by the State government in June, 2011. However, the petition was blocked by Shivraj Patil, Governor of Punjab and Rajasthan.
Ms. Srivastava said the activist groups would soon move a separate petition in the Supreme Court — as the court had suggested in its verdict — to seek permission for Dr. Chisti to leave India. “We will pursue the other remedy too — clemency under Article 161 of the Constitution — with the Governor,” she said.