Saturday, January 30, 2010

Andy's wait for justice drags on

JAIPUR: Ajmer police on Friday took another extension in filing the chargesheet against green traveller Andy Pag who was arrested on January 11 in Pushkar for carrying a satellite phone. The Pushkar court has extended the date of hearing to February 10.
The cops had failed to file the chargesheet on January 23, the first date of hearing after Pag was granted bail by the Ajmer district court on January 18.
With his 60-day tourist visa expiring on February 22, the wait for justice is getting long for Pag. Even if the trial starts on February 10, there's a slim chance that it will end by February 22. After which he can't stay legally in the country and once he steps out of the country, as per the new visa regulations, he can't come back before 60 days without special permission. Pag entered India through the Wagah border on December 23, 2009.
"I am a little disappointed to hear that the chargesheet has not yet been filed," Pag said. According to the visa papers he signed before entering India, the tourist visa cannot normally be extended. However, there are provisions for visa extension, but the process is cumbersome.
There is a provision by which an extension of 15 days may be granted on any type of visa (including tourist visa), under emergency circumstances, with applicable visa fee, and subject to certain conditions, like production of confirmed onward journey ticket.
Pag is planning to write to the embassy to help him out in this situation. Embassy officials shared that they will write to the minister of home affairs to look into the matter of visa extension. His counsel is exploring possibilities of securing an extension. "There is a process in place but it all depends, it is difficult to state at this point in time," his advocate Prateek Kasliwal said.
Police usually get 90 days to file the chargesheet, but an urgency shown on their part could have speeded up the process. Additional SP, Ajmer Rural, Himmat Abhilash Tak, pleaded ignorance about the day's development, saying he was in Jaipur for some work in the high court but sources said the cops are waiting for the panchayt elections to get over before filing the chargesheet.
Meanwhile, on January 27 Pag on his part managed to get email correspondence from Thuraya confirming that no call had been made or received from his phone during the time he was in India and Pakistan and faxed the same to police in Pushkar. Pag was keeping the Thuraya-made satphone.
"This corroborates the facts I gave to police during my interrogations, confirming that I have been honest, open and truthful with investigators. It removes the last shadow of doubt that I am a threat to national security, and that I should be charged with laws designed to punish terrorists," Pag said.
Meanwhile, he plans to carry on with his biofuel expedition to ensure that he covers the distance he set out for before it gets too late. "Though it is tough to concentrate on the expedition right now, I am planning to head towards Mumbai and cover the maximum distance in whatever time is left with me," he added.

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