The Calcutta High Court upheld on Friday the death sentence earlier awarded by a lower court to two of the seven persons it had convicted in connection with the attack on the American Centre here in January 2002.
While three of the other five convicted by the lower court were sentenced to life, the Calcutta High Court acquitted the remaining two persons on grounds of inadequate evidence against them.
Six policemen were killed and 14 others were injured in the terrorist attack on January 22, 2002, that was masterminded by the main accused Aftab Ansari, a Dubai-based don.
A division Bench comprising Justices Ashim Banerjee and Kalidas Mukherjee upheld the death sentence pronounced by a city session court in April 2005 to Ansari and his close aide, Jamiluddin Nasir.
The public prosecutor Ashimesh Goswami told journalists following the verdict: “The death sentence that was awarded by the court below [lower court] has been confirmed [by the High Court]. While three other persons [Musarat Hussain, Sakir Akhtar and Hasrat Alam] were given life sentence, the remaining two [Rehan Alam and Adil Hassan] got acquittal because of scant evidence.”
Ansari will have another three months to appeal before the Supreme Court against the verdict. The defence counsel was, however, unavailable for comments.
The police examined 123 witnesses in the case and charged the accused under sections 121 (waging war against the state), 121A (conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code and section 27(3) of the Arms Act.
The Sessions Court had convicted seven persons and had awarded death sentence to all, observing it as a “rarest of rare case.” The convicts had then appealed against the judgment in the High Court in October last year. The judgment was pronounced on Friday after a 77-day hearing by the Bench.
While initially the police was confused about the identity of the attackers, the dying-statements of two Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, following an encounter at Hazaribagh in Jharkhand by the Delhi and Bihar police on January 26, 2002, revealed the involvement of Ansari.
Ansari was arrested in Dubai soon after and was deported to India on February 9, 2002.
Calling him a “prince of darkness,” Mr. Goswami said though Ansari was not in India when the attack took place, he was “monitoring and directing” the attack with the help of terrorists in the city and that there was no doubt about his Lashkar-e-Taiba link.