An ambulance used to ferry gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari to a Mohali court was found abandoned outside a roadside eatery on the Chandigarh-Nangal highway in Punjab’s Rupnagar district, police said on Sunday.

The police said they have taken the vehicle in their custody.

“We have taken the ambulance in our custody,” Rupnagar Deputy Superintendent of Police T S Gill said over the phone.

The police said they got information that the ambulance bearing a registration number of Uttar Pradesh was lying abandoned on the roadside.

Ansari, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA from Mau who is wanted in Uttar Pradesh for various cases, was ferried in the ambulance from the Rupnagar jail to a Mohali court in connection with a 2019 case of extortion.

Amid tight security arrangements, Ansari was taken to the court on a wheelchair. He was sent back to the Rupnagar jail, where he is lodged since January 2019, in the ambulance after the court appearance.

A case was registered in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki after the documents of the ambulance were found to be fake, the Uttar Pradesh police had said.

The FIR was registered under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 420 (forgery), 471 (fraudulently or dishonestly using documents as genuine), 467 (forgery of valuable security) and 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating).

Amid a row over the issue, a Punjab police official had clarified that an inmate can be transported in a private ambulance on medical grounds and the cost of conveyance has to be borne by the prisoner.

According to the Punjab Prisoners (Attendance in Court) Rules, 1969, police can allow a private vehicle on the request of a prisoner, the official had said.

The Supreme Court recently directed the Punjab government to hand over the custody of Ansari to the Uttar Pradesh police, saying it was being denied on trivial grounds under the guise of medical issues.

The apex court had also said a convict or an undertrial prisoner, who disobeys the law of the land, cannot oppose his transfer from one prison to another and the courts are not to be helpless bystanders when the rule of law is being challenged with impunity.

The court had said Ansari’s custody be handed over to the Uttar Pradesh police within two weeks so as to lodge him in the Banda district jail.

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