SC puts Mukhtar Ansari’s conviction on hold
SC bench issued a notice to the state government, directing it to file its response to the petition filed by Mukhtar Ansari
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed an Allahabad high court order convicting former Uttar Pradesh legislator Mukhtar Ansari and sentencing him to seven years in prison for allegedly intimidating a jail official by pointing a gun at him in 2003.
A bench of justices BR Gavai and Vikram Nath issued a notice to the state government, directing it to file its response to the petition filed by Ansari. “This is only an interim stay. We will decide on confirming it after hearing the state,” the bench said.
On September 21 last year, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court sentenced the four-term former MLA to seven years in jail and reversed the acquittal order passed by a trial court in December 2020. The case against Ansari was lodged in April 2003, when Lucknow district prison jailer SK Awasthi alleged that he was threatened for ordering his subordinates to frisk Ansari’s visitors at the jail. The then jailer also alleged that the politician had pointed a revolver at him and abused him.
Appearing for Ansari, senior advocate Kapil Sibal along with advocate Nizam Pasha argued that this was a clear case of acquittal where none of the witnesses supported the prosecution case and even the complainant, the jailer in question, did not support the allegations levelled against the petitioner.
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The high court relied on the statements given initially by some of the eyewitnesses at the beginning of the trial to hold that the acquittal was wrongly concluded, he said. Ansari’s team pointed out that these witnesses turned hostile during cross-examination.
In his petition, Ansari further said that the prosecution offered no explanation as to how the revolver was brought inside the prison. The revolver was not produced during the trial and the name of the visitors, who supposedly came to meet Ansari on the day of the incident, were never brought on record, the petition said.
“The order (of high court) relies on bald and baseless averments of the prosecution concerning the truth of criminal cases filed against the petitioner that are still pending trial, and even casts doubt on earlier judgments in unrelated cases whereby the petitioner had been acquitted...,” Ansari said in his plea. “An order of acquittal must not be overturned if the view taken by the trial court is a plausible one.”
The Supreme Court bench stayed the high court order, and remarked: “The high court interference is possible only if the trial court order is perverse and impossible.”
The Uttar Pradesh government opposed the stay, with additional advocate general Garima Parshad saying: “This is not a fit case for grant of stay. Since 1986, there are more than 60 criminal cases against this person.”
Ansari is currently lodged in Uttar Pradesh’s Banda jail, where he was brought from a Punjab jail on April 7 last year after an order from the top court.
The Allahabad high court, while convicting the gangster-turned-politician, had relied on the reputation of Ansari as a mafia don having over 60 heinous crimes registered against him. The high court noted how Ansari created fear in the minds and hearts of the people including government officials and executed grievous crimes involving murder and kidnapping, from inside jail.