New Delhi:  Eighty-year-old ailing Pakistani scientist Mohammed Khalil Chisti, serving life term in an Ajmer jail in Rajasthan in a 20-year-old murder case, was on Monday granted bail by the Supreme Court on humanitarian grounds.
Chishti got the reprieve from a bench of justices P Sathasivam and J Chelameswar considering his old age and the fact that he has been in India since 1992 after a murder case was lodged against him when he came on a visit to Ajmer to see his mother.
A microbiologist, Chisti had come to visit his ailing mother in Ajmer in 1992 when he got embroiled in a dispute and, in the melee, one of his neighbours was shot dead while his nephew got injured.
Born in Ajmer to a prosperous family of caretakers of the Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti shrine, Chisti was studying in Pakistan at the time of partition in 1947 and chose to stay back in that country.
"We are satisfied that a case is made out for enlargement on bail," the bench said while directing the release of Chisti from jail on the conditions and satisfaction of the fast-track court, Ajmer.
The bench, which took a sympathetic view, also agreed to hear his plea to go back to Karachi and asked him to file a separate application for it.
"You file another application and then mention these things that you want to go to your native country and we would consider," the bench said when senior advocate U U Lalit, appearing for Chisti, submitted that he should at least be allowed to live in Delhi.
Chisti's plea to come to the national capital was opposed by the Rajasthan Government which said that the visa issued to him only permitted his stay in Ajmer and nearby areas.
The court then asked Chisti not to leave Ajmer till further orders. Chisti was granted bail a day after his case was discussed between the authorities of the two countries during Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to India.
During the hearing, the bench also made a reference to Zardari's visit and said, "Let us hope what has happened on Sunday will continue".
"What we have read from Monday 's newspapers is that good things are happening," the bench observed.
During Monday's hearing, the bench said if Chisti has not surrendered his passport, then he has to do so.
The family of Chisti, expressed joy at the Apex Court order for his release on bail. An emotional Shoha, Chisti's daughter, told the media in Islamabad that the bail was "due to God" and efforts by countless Pakistanis and Indians.
After a prolonged trial that stretched for 18 years, Chisti was held guilty in the murder case and was awarded life sentence on January 31 last year by an Ajmer sessions court.
He had earlier been also granted bail by the sessions court during the trial but was ordered not to leave Ajmer. He was re-arrested after his conviction to serve the sentence.
Chisti, who suffers from heart, hearing and other ailments, had lived in his brother's poultry farm till his conviction.
His case came to light when Justice Markandeya Katju, the then Supreme Court judge, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging that the Pakistani national be pardoned on humanitarian grounds.
An eminent professor of virology in Karachi Medical College, Chisti holds a PhD from Edinburgh University.