The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the execution of Pakistani national Mohammed Arif, alias Ashfaq, who was awarded the death sentence for killing three Army personnel in the Red Fort attack of December 2000.
A Bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha and Justices Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph stayed the execution on a writ petition filed by Arif challenging the Supreme Court Rules providing for hearing of all review petitions in the judge’s chamber. The Bench directed that the petition be listed for hearing before a five-judge Constitution Bench as it raised important questions of law.
The petitioner was one of the seven Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists who attacked the Red Fort, killing the Army personnel Ashok Kumar, Uma Shankar and Abdullah Thakur.
During interrogation, Arif disclosed that he was from Pakistan. The trial court awarded the death sentence to all seven. The Delhi High Court, however, acquitted six of them, while confirming the death sentence of Arif. His review petitions were dismissed later.
In the present writ petition, Arif contends that he had undergone more than 13 years of detention and executing the death sentence now would amount to subjecting him to two punishments — life imprisonment and the death penalty. He challenges the Supreme Court Rules, 1966, related to disposal of review petitions by circulation without oral hearing.
The petition says, “This rule makes no exception for death sentence cases, which, by judicial definition, are treated as the rarest of the rare. On account of long and continuous incarceration and the uncertainty of his life any day after the pronouncement of death sentence by the trial court, the petitioner has suffered physically as well as mentally and for that, medical treatment has been going on from the past six years.”