Lucknow: "God is great, thank you," said Brij Bihari Pandey after being released from Gorakhpur district jail. At 108 years, the murder convict was India's oldest prisoner, and was freed following a special bail granted to him by the Allahabad High Court.
"Brij Bihari Pandey was jailed in 2009 after being convicted along with 15 others for the murder in 1987 of four persons in Maharajganj over inheritance of a Hindu religious institution," Gorakhpur District Magistrate Hari Om said.
Pandey spent less than a year in jail as an undertrial in 1988, Om added.
The trial went on for more than two decades until 2009, when Pandey was convicted along with others to life imprisonment. His health was on a natural slide and went on deteriorating, following which an application was moved for his release on grounds of infirmities and illness.
Describing Pandey as the "oldest prisoner in the history of Indian prisons", Om said: "The man was released on Friday evening following a bail order issued by the Allahabad High Court on grounds of ill-health due to old age."
Interestingly, his release on bail was sought by none other than the jail authorities, who were finding it difficult to provide him the required medical treatment.
"Pandey had been quite unwell for the past few months and it was becoming increasingly difficult to take care of him as we had to shift him from the jail hospital to the local civil hospital for specialised treatment. Therefore, we moved an application for his bail, that was kindly granted by the high court," Jail Superintendent Shiv Kumar Sharma told IANS over phone from Gorakhpur, some 300 km from Lucknow.
The centenarian convict was shifted back to the Gorakhpur prison Friday, before being formally set free.
"His bail documents were signed by his grandson who specially came down from Maharajganj to escort him back home," Sharma added.
Weak and infirm, Pandey could hardly speak a few words, but managed to express his delight over his release by smiling and warmly hugging his fellow inmates, who specially sought a big garland from the jail authorities to give Pandey a send-off.
Pandey received the garland with a broad smile.