Cleared by Rajasthan CM, Chishty's mercy petition lying with Governor

The Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from Pakistani virologist Khaleel Chishty, who is undergoing the life sentence in Ajmer jail.

The Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Justices R.S. Rathore and S.S. Kothari, upheld the conviction under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code, delivered by the lower court in Ajmer on January 31 this year against the octogenarian. Human rights activists have been pleading with the Rajasthan Governor for clemency for Dr. Chishty.

While the copy of the judgment was not available, Chishty's lawyer Piyush Nag said the Court rejected the basic contention of the appellant that there was no intention of murder.

“It accepted the argument that the murdered person was part of the group which had attacked Dr. Chishty's house in the Dargah area of Ajmer and he (Dr. Chishty) was not the aggressor, but it did not accept the theory of self-defence,” Mr. Nag said.

Members of Dr. Chishty's family, who have come from Pakistan to meet him in the jail hospital, were not present at the hearing as their visas are valid for Ajmer city only.

The hearing in the case was completed in July and Tuesday's verdict was a one-liner: “Appeal stands rejected”.

To appeal in Supreme Court

Shocked by the pronouncement, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), which has been spearheading a country-wide campaign to free Chishty and facilitate his return to Karachi, said it would appeal in the Supreme Court.

“A detailed commentary on the judgment will be presented after the copy is made public by the Court. It is clear that the right to another appeal in the Supreme Court exists for Dr. Chishty. As soon as the Supreme Court opens, we will file an appeal,” said Prem Krishna Sharma and Kavita Srivastava, president and general secretary respectively of PUCL, Rajasthan. “We are glad that the suspense is finally over,” Ms. Srivastava added.

The activists also asserted that they would continue pursuing the clemency route — taken up first by eminent journalist Kuldip Nayar and film maker Mahesh Bhatt, and supported by the former Supreme Court judge, Markandey Katju, who wrote to the Prime Minister in this regard in June.

“It should be known that there is no impediment to Dr. Chishty pursuing ‘judicial' and ‘pardon' remedies at the same time. Thus the mercy petition is independent of the judgment in this case,” pointed out Ms. Srivastava.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has already cleared the mercy petition of Dr. Chishty, who suffers from various ailments, including hearing problems and a hip fracture. The petition is pending with Governor Shivraj Patil.