J. Venkatesan

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed concern over the killing of innocent people in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast, branding them terrorists.

“Just for getting a gallantry award, innocent people in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast are termed terrorists and killed,” Justice Aftab Alam, who was on a Bench, which comprised Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice G.S. Singhvi, observed orally. “This is a cold-blooded murder but we give them gallantry award.”

Endorsing this observation, Justice Singhvi said, “It is also being done by the police and it is happening throughout the country. In the so-called encounters, the justification offered is if we [police] don’t kill them, they [terrorists] will kill us. Fake encounters are for gallantry awards and for getting an out-of-turn promotion. The whole thing is devilishly planned.”

The Bench was hearing an appeal filed by ‘godman’ Swami Shraddananda, who was held guilty of murdering his wife Begum Shakereh Namazi, who belonged to the erstwhile royal family of Mysore .

The trial court had slapped the death sentence on the godman and the Karnataka High Court confirmed it. On an appeal from Shraddananda in the Supreme Court questioning the High Court judgment dated September 19, 2005, a two-judge Bench in May 2007 gave two different verdicts.

While Justice S.B. Sinha awarded life imprisonment, Justice Justice Markandey Katju confirmed the death sentence. In view of the difference of opinion, the matter was posted before the three-judge Bench. On Tuesday, the argument centred on whether the murder would fall under the rarest of rare cases to warrant the death penalty.