The Supreme Court has allowed the plea filed by Uttar Pradesh Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Abbas Ansari, currently in jail, seeking to attend a small intimate non-religious ceremony relating to the death of his late father Mukhtar Ansari.

Mukhtar Ansari passed away due to cardiac arrest at a hospital in Banda, Uttar Pradesh, on March 28. Abbas Ansari is in judicial custody in connection with a criminal case.

The Bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice KV Viswanathan allowed Ansari to attend the ceremony on June 10 at his home in Mohammadabad, Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, with his family, in police custody.

During the hearing today, Advocate Nizam Pasha appeared for Ansari. He submitted that a new application has been filed and the new dates are June 10 to 12, 2024. The Court had earlier permitted him to attend the ceremony through video conferencing, which liberty he had refused to avail.

Additional Advocate General (AAG) Garima Prasad appearing for the State of UP, contended, "As per his own admission, all the rituals concerned are over." The AAG contended that the State has only two concerns; first that there are more than three persons inside the house where Ansari seeks to stay and the second, that his mother is absconding for long and there is a reward of Rs.50,000 in one district and reward of Rs. 20,000 in other for information about her.

Pasha objected to the submission about the mother in the present case. He submitted, "How is that related to this matter?"

AAG Prasad contended, "In the present application, he has submitted that he may be allowed to stay inside the house and the ladies will not be disturbed or frisked, to that extent, the State has an issue. He will be our responsibility, his security will be our responsibility." She suggested that conditions may be put on Ansari. The AAG further submitted that Ansari should be allowed to attend the ceremony, but after that, he should be back in jail.

Pasha showed the Bench some pictures of the 'Fatiha' ceremony, when Ansari was allowed to meet his family for 2-3 hours. He pointed out that three policemen were making videos while Ansari was with his family members (ladies). "Privacy of women of the family must be respected," he argued. Pasha also argued, "Security is escorting him into a house, or maybe a room. They can't be in every room sitting with him and ladies of the house, taking photographs and videos, and his mother is absconding has nothing to do with this." The Counsel further argued, "Once Ansari is in a room, it can't be that they (police) can't wait outside."

On perusal of the photographs, Justice Viswanathan remarked, "They seem to be happy."

Pasha submitted, "He (Ansari) was meeting his family after a long time."

Justice Kant also pointed out, "The women folk is comfortable. They are normal."

Taking note of the submissions, the Court ordered, "In our concerned view, the petitioner deserves to be allowed to attend the private prayer scheduled to be held on June 10 and participate in both the rituals which are being organised on that day. Similarly, the petitioner can be permitted to spend time with his family members at his home on June 11 and 12. However, the Petitioner shall be allowed to participate in rituals and meet his family members while in police custody namely, the same arrangement which we had directed vide order dated 09.04.2024."

"...Ansari should be temporarily shifted to Central Jai, Ghazipur, well before June 9, 202. He shall be in police custody in the morning before 9 am on June 10 and be allowed to participate in both the rituals without any hindrance. The petitioner shall be brought back to the Central Jail, Ghazipur at 6 pm. He shall be again taken to his home on June 11 and 12 from 9 am-6 pm and shall be allowed to spend time with his family and close relatives, on both the dates," the Bench directed.

The Court directed the Police to ensure that no weapon, even licensed, shall be carried by any visitor during the said period. The Court directed Abbas Ansari will be taken back to Kasganj Jail on June 13. "Petitioner shall not entertain any print or electronic media during his visit from June 10 to June 12, 2024," the Court further directed.

Accordingly, the Court allowed Abbas Ansari's plea to attend the private prayer meet for his late father.

Last week, the Court had taken note of the fact that General Elections are going on and the police authorities are busy on duty there. The Bench had asked Ansari to file a fresh Application seeking permission to attend the ceremony after June 4. The Bench had remarked, "We have to keep in mind your safety also." The Counsel for Abbas Ansari had informed the Court that he did not want to take benefit of Tuesday's order of the Supreme Court permitting him to participate in a religious ceremony virtually.

Pertinently, on May 7, the Bench had ordered, "As an interim measure, it is directed that the petitioner shall be permitted to join the 40th day ritual of his deceased father through online mode for which the State Government/Jail Authorities are directed to make necessary arrangements forthwith."

Last Month, Ansari had approached the Apex Court seeking permission to participate in his father's 'fatiha'. The Court had granted him permission to attend the fatiha, imposing stringent conditions. However, Ansari's bail plea in a separate case was denied by the Allahabad High Court on May 1, citing the pending examination of key witnesses and policemen involved.

Mukhtar Ansari, a five-time MLA from Mau Sadar constituency, was laid to rest in Ghazipur on March 30 amidst tight security arrangements, with a large crowd participating in the funeral procession. With over 60 criminal cases against him, the 63-year-old had been incarcerated in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab since 2005. He passed away at Rani Durgawati Medical College on March 28, 2024, after being transferred from Banda jail due to deteriorating health conditions.

Cause Title: Abbas Ansari v. The State of Uttar Pradesh and Anr. [Writ Petition(s)(Criminal) No(s).208/2024]