UP govt to SC: Punjab ‘vociferously’ defending ‘gangster’ Mukhtar Ansari

Mau MLA Mukhtar Ansari has been lodged in Rupnagar district jail since January 2019 in connection with an alleged extortion case in Punjab.

Taking serious objection to Punjab not transferring strongman and BSP MLA Mukhtar Ansari to face trial in multiple cases, the Uttar Pradesh government Monday told the Supreme Court that the Punjab government has “vociferously defended” a “dreaded gangster having terror charges” against him.

Mau MLA Ansari has been lodged in Rupnagar district jail since January 2019 in connection with an alleged extortion case in Punjab. The top court is hearing a plea filed by UP, seeking direction to Rupnagar jail authorities to give Ansari custody to UP jail authorities in connection with production warrants issued against him.

Appearing for UP, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and R S Reddy that the trial in several cases of heinous crimes involving Ansari has been held up in the state and that Punjab government is “supporting a gangster”.

“The state (Punjab) says Mukhtar Ansari is suffering from depression. Ansari says he belongs to a family of freedom fighters. The point is there are several cases of heinous offences lodged against him (in Uttar Pradesh). He is a gangster. He is happy in jail in Punjab,” Mehta told the court.

He wondered, “Why should the state of Punjab support Mukhtar Ansari?”

Mehta’s reference was to the affidavit filed by the Punjab jail authorities which claimed that they could not transfer him due to his medical condition. The affidavit said that Ansari has been undergoing treatment at the jail hospital and at other secondary and tertiary hospitals from time to time since his date of admission to Rupnagar district jail on January 24, 2019.

The UP plea also sought a direction to transfer the proceedings in the Punjab extortion case to a special court in Allahabad.

In a separate affidavit, Ansari also opposed UP’s plea for his custody, saying the state was doing this “merely so that he can be killed when he is brought to the State of UP…there is grave and impending danger to the life of the Respondent in the state of UP under the present political regime”.

Speaking of his credentials, Ansari also invoked former Vice-President Hamid Ansari as a member of his broader “family”. His affidavit said he “is part of a family which has made immense contribution to the Indian freedom movement and has given India many leaders in the form of Shri Muhammad Hamid Ansari who was the Vice President of India, Shri Baba Shaukatullah Ansari who served as the Governor for the state of Odisha, Hon’ble Me Justice Asif Ansari who was the judge of the Hon’ble High Court at Allahabad” and his “own father, late Shri Subhabullah Ansari, who was a freedom fighter and a social worker”.

He added that his maternal grandfather is Martyr Brigadier Usman Ansari who served in the Naushera sector during the 1948 India-Pakistan war and was awarded the Mahavir Chakra posthumously.

Ansari said that due to his political history, “there have been multiple attempts on his life by rival political enemies belonging to the ruling government in Uttar Pradesh, on multiple occasions” and therefore “his trial ought to be continued through video-conferencing”.

He contended that fair trial is meant to protect the interests of the accused and it is not open for the state to allege that fair trial requires custodial presence of the accused, albeit at the risk of threat to the life of the person.

Ansari said that in nine out of the ten cases cited by UP, he has already been granted permission to appear via video conferencing, which he has been doing, and that in the tenth case, his application seeking permission to appear via video conferencing is pending before court.

The bench will hear the matter next on February 24.

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