The 18 June verdict of a special court in Prayagraj (Allahabad), sentencing four of the five accused to life imprisonment is lenient. If a terror attack amounts to waging a war against the nation, it beats reason why it should not be considered among the rarest of rare cases. Imposing a fine of Rs 2.4 lakh each on the convicts, JeM terrorists Irfan, Ashiq Iqbal alias Farooque, Shakeel Ahmed and Mohammad Naseem, who executed the plan of their Pakistani handlers to kill two citizens and injure seven paramilitary personnel, is akin to a travesty of justice. The convicts had conspired against India while providing logistic and material help to five other terrorists whom the security forces killed in retaliatory firing. Further, if not enough evidence could be found against Mohammad Aziz, it’s a sad commentary on the state of policing and prosecution in the country. Slapping the other four with a fine of Rs 40,000 each is a joke.
In a classic case of denial of justice by delaying justice delivery, 14 years of legal proceedings have culminated in an underwhelming judgment. Examining 63 prosecution witnesses in the court through video conferencing from Naini jail has yielded a dodo.
Life imprisonment is meant for convicts who committed a heinous crime at the spur of the moment. When it’s a cold-blooded murder, the case is rarer and, hence, the punishment turns more stringent. If killing an individual with detailed planning calls for hanging the convict, how could the court not find it a rarest of rare cases where the terrorists, posed as pilgrims, took a Tata Sumo in Akbarpur near the Kichaucha village in Faizabad, abandoned the car there, hired a jeep (UP 42 T 0618) driven by Rehan Alam Ansari, to reach the makeshift temple of Ram Lalla in Ayodhya to first perform a reconnaissance and then launch the attack on 5 July 2005?
The fact that this was an attack on Ayodhya makes the terrorists’ motivation ideological. That is most certainly rarer than cold-blooded murder.
If this is the story that the public prosecutor is telling the media, but he could not establish it in court, the state must look for a more competent lawyer.
After kicking the driver out, the terrorists rammed the jeep into the security cordon and hurled a grenade at the shrine. Then they barged into Mata Sita Rasoi and fired indiscriminately. If this is not one of the rarest of crimes, what is? Do ordinary murderers use RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, type-56 assault rifles, M1911 pistols, M67 grenades and carry jihadi literature?
If a legal eagle argues that Asif Iqbal, Irfan Khan, Mohammed Nasim and Shaqeel Ahmed were not the ones who executed the plot above, that they were mere accomplices, the conviction and execution of Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru may be recalled. After all, on 13 December 2001, Afzal was himself not pumping bullets into the bodies of security personnel. He had provided the Pakistan-inspired terrorists with logistical support. And “if there is a loophole in the law through which terror convicts wriggle out, the law must be amended forthwith or a new law should replace it,” said Amitabh Sinha, Supreme Court lawyer.
As of now, “the state must appeal for capital punishment of the terror convicts at the higher court (Allahabad High Court) and go up to the Supreme Court if required,” said Sinha.
The callous policemen who could not muster enough evidence against the one accused who has been acquitted must be taken to task.