Updated: February 25, 2021 1:14:33 am
THE UTTAR Pradesh government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the Punjab government “is shamelessly protecting” gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari by not handing over his custody to face trial “in 10 heinous cases of murder, extortion, cheating, fraud” and “gangster acts” in the special court for MPs and MLAs in Allahabad.
“You are such a small fry that a state (Punjab) is shamelessly protecting you,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta retorted as Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Ansari, told a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy that the BSP MLA was a “small fry” caught in a fight between two states.
The bench was hearing a plea by UP seeking custody of Ansari, who is currently lodged in the Roopnagar District Jail in Punjab in connection with an extortion case.
In a written submission, UP said the Allahabad court had directed Ansari to be lodged in the District Jail, Banda, but the SSP of the jail gave his custody to the Punjab Police following a production warrant issued by a magistrate’s court in Mohali in connection with the extortion and criminal intimidation case.
This was done without seeking permission from the Allahabad court, it said, adding that a departmental inquiry has been ordered against the SSP who has since been suspended.
“Looking at the chain of events and chronology, it appears that the transfer of custody of” Ansari “is meticulously planned and raises a strong suspicion of conspiracy to delay the proceedings before the Special Judge (MP/MLA), Allahabad”, the state’s submission said.
It said Ansari conduct “is evident from the fact that he has not even applied for default bail” in the case “in past two years [the case was registered on January 8, 2019] even though the charge sheet has not been filed by the State of Punjab”.
The UP government said that according to the Punjab FIR, Ansari made extortion calls on January 7, 2019. He was then inside the Banda jail, it said, adding that the state is therefore “very much an interested party to know as to how phone calls have been made by him from inside the jail premises”.
It said there has been no investigation by Punjab “from the jail authorities at Banda, UP on basis of which it could be concluded that the alleged extortion calls had been made by accused Mukhtar Ansari from within the jail premises in the state of Uttar Pradesh”.
The state submitted that there is no provision for transfer an undertrial prisoner and therefore, the action of Judicial Magistrate-I, Mohali of sending Ansari to District Jail, Roopnagar instead of sending him back to District Jail, Banda, amounts to transferring the undertrial prisoner. This is “transgress of power vested under Section 267 of the Code”, it said.
“Such a situation is highly detrimental for the smooth functioning of criminal justice system and it creates mistrust between the State machineries as happened in the present case,” it said.
It said that Ansari “has been operating his illegal activities in the state of Uttar Pradesh from within the jail maintained by the…State of Punjab”.
Ansari had earlier contended that he should not be transferred to Uttar Pradesh as there is a risk to his life due to rivalry with another accused, Brijesh Singh. The Uttar Pradesh government said it “is duty bound to provide all safety and protection to” Ansari and therefore his fear is “imaginary”.
Punjab, in its written submission, opposed the writ petition filed by Uttar Pradesh under Article 32, saying only citizens can exercise the right for protection of their fundamental rights and not the state, which has no fundamental right conferred on it.
It added that if Uttar Pradesh’s petition is entertained, “it will open Pandora’s Box and the state and its authorities will start litigating against each other”. Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave appearing for Punjab sought an adjournment on personal grounds. The bench allowed this and posted the matter for hearing next on March 2.
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