Two days after Afzal Guru’s execution, the Supreme Court took judicial notice of his hanging, and dismissed his pending writ petition, seeking his transfer from Tihar Jail to Srinagar Central Jail, as infructuous. Justice Chelameswar issued the order on February 11.
Indeed, according to his visitors in jail, Prof. S.A.R. Geelani and his lawyer, N.D. Pancholi, Afzal was keenly awaiting the outcome of this writ petition, as he hoped that the Court’s decision in his favour would enable his family get an opportunity to visit him in jail more frequently than it could.
Afzal filed this petition early in 2011, through the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, (SCLSC) after the Delhi government rejected his request to transfer him to Srinagar Central Jail in view of the fact that the Jammu and Kashmir government had not given its consent for the transfer, and also that his mercy petition was pending before the President.
The Hindu has a copy of this rejection letter sent to Afzal by B.M. Jain, Dy. Secretary, Home (Jail), Government of NCT of Delhi through the Director General (Prisons), Central Jail, Tihar on July 1, 2010.
At the time of admission of his petition, his lawyer, V.C. Mahajan, informed the Supreme Court that under the rules, a convict should be lodged in a jail at the place of his residence. He said that Afzal’s 90-year old mother, 11-year-old son and his wife, Tabasuum had to travel repeatedly from Sopore in North Kashmir to Delhi. He sought the court’s direction to the government to transfer Afzal to either a jail in Jammu and Kashmir or at Pathankot in Punjab, which is nearer to the State.
In the alternative, Afzal prayed that the government should be asked to bear the cost of travel of his family members from Sopore to New Delhi.
The court did not get an opportunity to examine the merits of his petition, as his lawyer, appointed by the SCLSC, was absent at several hearings of the case forcing adjournment. At one hearing on November 23 last year, the lawyer told the court that someone else would appear for Afzal.
Disappointed by the tardy progress, the court asked the Secretary, SCLSC, to look into it and submit a report. However, the Supreme Court’s case status on its website for January 4, when it was last heard and adjourned, makes no mention of this report.
The last meeting between Afzal and his wife Tabassum took place at Tihar Central Jail on August 2 last year, which coincided with Rakshabandhan.
Death-row prisoners are allowed to meet their relatives face-to-face for an hour only during the Rakshabandhan day. On other days, the meetings are not effective, as they are allowed to speak and listen to each other only for half an hour through microphones and speakers fixed on the wall, and separated from each other by glass cubicles. Mr. Pancholi quoted Afzal as telling him that his early hanging could spare his family the agony of visiting him, in the event of the transfer not materialising.