Dr Khalil Chishty, an 80-year-old Pakistani virologist who has spent many years at a prison in Ajmer, has been allowed by the Supreme Court to travel to his home in Karachi.
The scientist was granted bail last month. Human rights activists had been pleading for assistance for him for years. Dr Chishty is unable to walk unaided. He has to be carried by two people.
Pronouncing its order on his plea to return to Karachi, the Supreme Court today said, "Taking into consideration his age ( 80) and his academic qualification and accepting his assurance that he will abide by the law, we permit him to travel to his native country Pakistan."
Dr Chishty has been convicted for killing a man during a brawl in Ajmer in April 1992. He was visiting the Rajasthan city then to offer prayers at the famous shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty.
Since then, he has been in India.
In January 2011, Dr Chisty was awarded life imprisonment after an 18-year-long trial. Till then, he had remained largely under house arrest in Rajasthan, his lawyers say. After he was given the life sentence, he was placed in the Ajmer Jail. Some others convicted in the same case had been granted bail.
The Supreme Court will take up his appeal against his conviction and life sentence on November 20. For this, he has to come to India by November 1. In Pakistan, he has to deposit his passport at the Indian High Commission in Karachi.
Many Pakistani officials had urged India to set Dr Chishty free. His case was reportedly also discussed at a lunch meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari during the latter's one-day India visit last month.
In June last year, Supreme Court Justice Markandeya Katju had requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to release Dr Chishty on humanitarian grounds. Acting on Justice Katju's appeal, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot approved his mercy plea and sent it to Governor Shivraj Patil for final clearance. After that, Mr Patil sent a questionnaire to the law department on various issues related to the case.