After spending over two years in a Punjab prison, gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari was brought back to Banda jail in the wee hours of Wednesday.
Banda: After spending over two years in a Punjab prison, gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari was brought back to Banda jail in the wee hours of Wednesday.
Ansari was ferried in an ambulance guarded by a strong posse of gun-toting security personnel throughout his 900-km journey from Rupnagar to this Uttar Pradesh town in the Bundelkhand region.
Acting on a Supreme Court order, the Uttar Pradesh Police took custody of the 57-year-old BSP MLA at Rupnagar jail on Tuesday to bring him back to Banda prison. It took around two hours to complete the formalities before he was handed over to the UP Police after a medical check-up.
Once the convoy entered the state on Tuesday evening, the fleet of security vehicles of the Uttar Pradesh Police, which included an ambulance equipped with all life-saving equipment to meet any exigency en route to Banda, a journey that takes around 14 hours from Ropar, and an anti-riot police vehicle ‘Vajra’ whizzed past the newly-laid expressways.
Before the convoy entered Banda jail at 4.30 AM, it slowed down near Kanpur Dehat as some stray animals blocked the road along a patch of thick forest. While heavy security arrangement was made by the Punjab Police outside Rupnagar jail, the Banda prison area looked like a cantonment zone with policemen keeping a hawk-eyed vigil all around.
The police convoy entered Uttar Pradesh through the Eastern Peripheral Expressway in Baghpat around 6.00 PM, Allahabad zone Additional Director General of Police Prem Prakash informed.
The Uttar Pradesh team had reached Rupnagar police lines at 4.30 am on Tuesday and left for the jail around noon for the transfer. The convoy left the jail premises at 2:08 pm taking a side gate, dodging mediapersons waiting outside the main gate. As the convoy took the Ambala road, some media vehicles gave a chase but soon gave up.
The five-time MLA will cool his heels in barrack number 15 of the Banda district jail, where he was lodged in the past before being shifted to Punjab. Additional police force has been deployed at the jail at the request of prison authorities.
Mukhtar Ansari will be guarded by three security personnel round-the-clock inside the barrack. “Security personnel have been posted inside as well as outside the jail premises,” Banda jailor Pramod Tiwari said.
“In barrack number 15, where Ansari will be kept, arrangements for light, drinking water and cleanliness have been beefed up,” he said. Tiwari said access to the barrack has now been denied to other jail inmates. The main prison complex gate, which generally remains open, will now be kept closed. Only those jail staff reporting for duty will be allowed in after proper screening, he added.
High towers have been put up outside the jail and extra police pickets have also been set up to keep a watch on every visitor. Meanwhile, the principal of Government Medical College, Banda, Dr Mukesh Kumar Yadav said a panel of four doctors has been constituted on the apex court’s directions to monitor Ansari’s health.
Mukhtar Ansari was lodged in Rupnagar jail in January 2019 in connection with an extortion case. The legislator from Mau in eastern Uttar Pradesh is facing 52 cases in the state and elsewhere, and 15 of them are in the trial stage.
The BJP-run Uttar Pradesh government had accused the Congress government in Punjab of shielding Ansari for several months by not letting the state take custody. Punjab’s home department had asked the Uttar Pradesh government to take Ansari’s custody by April 8, following the March 26 Supreme Court order that had set a two-week deadline.
The apex court had noted that Ansari was allegedly involved in cases of murder, attempt to murder, cheating and conspiracy, apart from offences under the Gangsters Act. It said his custody was being denied to the Uttar Pradesh Police on trivial grounds under the guise of medical issues.
The SC also said a convict or an undertrial who disobeys the law of the land cannot oppose his transfer from one prison to another and the courts cannot be helpless bystanders when the rule of law is being challenged with impunity.
As Uttar Pradesh takes charge of the high-profile undertrial, his wife Afshan Ansari moved the Supreme Court seeking directions to the state authorities to ensure his safety, including from a police encounter.