Mukhtar Ansari can be tried via videoconferencing, says Punjab in SC

Mukhtar Ansari  

The Uttar Pradesh government scoffed at Punjab’s argument in the Supreme Court that criminal-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari could be tried via videoconferencing, saying that fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya could also then demand a virtual trial.

Ansari is lodged in a jail in Punjab. U.P. wants him transferred.

A Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan reserved the transfer case for judgment after hearing both Punjab and U.P.’s arguments.

“If videoconferencing is the only mode of trial and accused can appear from anywhere, then Vijay Mallya can appear from anywhere,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for U.P., contended.

Mr. Mallya is believed to be in the U.K. and efforts for his extradition are on.

Mr. Mehta said the State was “the only party interested in the rule of law and represents hundreds of victims”.

“I represent hundreds of victims. I represent society. He has 50 FIRs against him, 14 trials in advanced stage. It’s the constitutional obligation of the court to enforce free and fair trial. An accused who has violated the law of the land cannot object to the transfer [of Ansari]... Court cannot remain a mute spectator,” he submitted.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for Punjab, said it was unheard of to have a State file a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, accusing another State of violating its fundamental rights.

“There is no way a State can move under Article 32... This is elementary,” senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for Ansari, agreed.

‘Punjab has acted responsibly’

Mr. Dave said the State of Punjab has acted responsibly. “The Executive of Punjab has nothing to do with the orders passed by the courts of Punjab. U.P. can challenge the orders [of judicial custody of Ansari] passed by the Punjab courts before a competent court...” he submitted.

Mr. Rohatgi argued that U.P. cannot just “takeover” cases, if there were any, in Punjab against Ansari. “If so, any State can take over any case in any other State,” he said. Ansari should not be left in the “clutches” of U.P., which harbours animosity against him, he stated.

Mr. Dave said U.P. had to seek an inter-State transfer of Ansari from Punjab under the Transfer of Prisoners Act of 1950. It was wrong to file a writ petition before the apex court.

Mr. Mehta countered, “The Act, however, does not curtail the right of the court to allow the transfer of prisoners. Accused cannot jettison the power of this court. An accused who has violated the law of the land cannot object to the transfer. There is a constitutional obligation on the part of this court to enforce free and fair trial.”

U.P. has accused Punjab of “shamelessly” protecting Ansari by keeping him there.

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 6:24:56 PM |

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