Mukhtar Ansari custody: UP, Punjab spar over Art 32 use

The Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab governments have locked horns over whether a state government can file a petition under the Constitution’s Article 32 to claim fundamental rights.

The UP government had moved the Supreme Court under this constitutional provision seeking direction to the Punjab government and Rupnagar (Punjab) jail authority to immediately hand over gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari’s custody to Banda (UP) district jail. Ansari is lodged in the Rupnagar jail since January 2019.

Citing the top court verdict in Union of India vs V. Sriharan, the UP government contended that the court entertained the petition filed by the Centre as there existed dispute between it and a state bearing directly on fundamental rights.

“It is submitted that there exists no explicit or implicit bar for filing a Petition under Article 32 by the state as long as there exists a requirement of order/direction to be passed by the Hon’ble Court to ensure the protection of fundamental rights enshrined under Part III of the Constitution”, said the UP government in written submissions filed through advocate Garima Prasad.

Article 32 deals with ‘Right to Constitutional Remedies’, and gives the right to move the apex court for the enforcement of the rights conferred in the Constitution.

In Ansari’s custody, the UP government said that in the present case, the dispute is between two states affecting the fundamental right to speedy trial which is implicit in Article 14, 19(1) (a) and 21 of the Constitution. “It is submitted that there is no restriction specified as to who per se can file a petition for the enforcement of fundamental rights of the citizens under Article 32, thus, anyone including the state, can also approach this Hon’ble Court seeking reliefs pertaining to the enforcement and protection of the Fundamental Rights,” it added.

The Punjab government has contested these claims, saying that only a citizen can move the top court under Article 32 to claim fundamental rights and a state cannot invoke this provision. “State by itself has not been given any right to move this court under Article 32 under any circumstances.. therefore, the state of UP is not competent to file the present writ petition as it is neither citizen to whom the right is conferred and neither it has any fundamental rights which are exclusively conferred upon citizens,” it said, seeking dismissal of UP’s plea.

Earlier in the day, the Uttar Pradesh government told the Supreme Court that the Punjab government is “shamelessly” protecting Ansari as he is not being handed back to UP where he faces trial for several heinous offences before a special MP/MLA court.

The UP government added that more than 30 FIRs and more than 14 criminal trials including heinous crimes of murder and under Gangster Act are pending against Ansari in various MP/MLA courts, where his personal appearance is sought.