The Gujarat High Court on Friday rejected the plea of one of the principal accused in the Akshardham terror attack case to name two persons, at present appearing as prosecution witnesses, also as accused.
In his petition, Shaukat Husain Ghouri contended that Ashfak Bhavnagari and Jalal Patel were also supporting terror activities, were present in the planning meetings in Saudi Arabia and had collected money for the September 24, 2002 attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar.
Ghouri was arrested by the Ahmedabad crime branch police at the Hyderabad international airport on July18 last for his alleged involvement in arranging finances and masterminding the attack. The advocate for the State, opposing Ghouri's plea, pointed out that under Section 50 of the erstwhile Prevention of Terrorism ACT (POTA), which was applicable in the Akshardham case, the designated judge had no jurisdiction to take cognisance of the alleged involvement of the witnesses, and it was not possible to draw any inference that they had participated in any terrorist activity. It was on the same ground that a designated court earlier dismissed the petition, following which Ghouri moved the High Court.
A Division Bench consisting of Justices Jayant Patel and R. H. Shukla said Ghouri's plea was not maintainable.
Two Pakistani terrorists had stormed the Akshardham temple, in the wake of post-Godhra communal riots in the State. More than 30 people were killed in the attack before the terrorists were gunned down by commando forces. The designated POTA court awarded the death penalty to three accused and life-imprisonment to 10 others. The court issued non-bailable warrants against Ghouri and others who were absconding so far.