Khalil Chishty, an elderly Pakistani virologist serving a life sentence in India, could be set free with Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot forwarding his mercy petition on "humanitarian grounds" to the governor.
The decision to forward his petition comes against the backdrop of Supreme Court judge Markandeya Katju writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking his intervention for release of the ailing 78 year old Pakistani from Karachi.
Gehlot has sent the mercy petition of Chishty, who is serving life imprisonment in the Ajmer central jail, to acting Governor Shivraj Patil for consideration, an official said in Jaipur. The petition was "cleared" on "humanitarian grounds" on Friday and was forwarded to Raj Bhawan, he said.
Chishty's relatives and human rights activists had filed the mercy petition on his behalf before the state home department in April this year, with a request that the matter be dealt with expeditiously as his health was failing.
The approval of the Governor, who has power under article 161 of the Constitution of India to remit a sentence, will pave the way for his release, the official said.
A session court in Ajmer had awarded Chisty the life sentence on January 31 this year in a murder case after an 18 year long trial. He had filed an appeal in the High Court but his bail plea was rejected.
Chishty, who was a professor of Virology in Karachi Medical College, holds a PhD from Edinburgh University.
Chishty got involved in a fracas during his visit to Ajmer in 1992 to meet his ailing mother and in the melee one person was killed leading to his arrest. During the trial period, the sessions court, which had granted him bail, had ordered Chishty not to leave Ajmer and he was re-arrested after his conviction.
Chishty is currently lodged in the hospital of the central jail.