The Supreme Court, for the second time, dismissed a petition by death row convict Mohammed Arif alias Ashfaq to review the capital punishment awarded to him in the Red Fort attack case of 2000.
A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit, in its judgment on Thursday, called the terrorist incident a “direct attack on the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India”.
Intruders had sneaked into the Red Fort complex on the night of December 22, 2000 and opened fire on security personnel. Three soldiers lost their lives in the attack.
Ashfaq was found guilty of involvement in the attack in 2005 by the trial court which sentenced him to death. Subsequent appeals in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court had failed.
An earlier review petition and even a curative plea to reverse the death penalty were unsuccessful.
However, Ashfaq went on to file a writ petition contending that review in death penalty cases ought to be heard in open court and not in judges’ chambers. Other condemned prisoners too filed similar petitions in the apex court.
In 2014, a Constitution Bench agreed with the petitioners and directed that pending review petitions in death cases be heard in open court henceforth.
In 2016, another Constitution Bench gave Ashfaq, whose review petition had already been dismissed, the rare opportunity to file a second one so that it could be heard, this time, in open court.
Dismissing Ashfaq’s review petition on Thursday, the judgment, authored by Chief Justice Lalit, found no force in Ashfaq’s arguments that the call records in the case were inadmissible as evidence.
The court further noted that Ashfaq’s disclosure statement had led to another terrorist, Abu Shamal, who was killed in an encounter with the police while resisting arrest. The police had also recovered ammunition on the basis of information given by Ashfaq.
The aggravating circumstances evident from the record and specially the fact that there was a direct attack on the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India, completely outweigh the factors which may even remotely be brought into consideration as mitigating circumstances on record,” Chief Justice Lalit wrote.