The Calcutta High Court on Monday acquitted four Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, including two Pakistani nationals, who were awarded capital punishment for waging war against the country, while sentencing them for other offences.
All the four were found guilty of “conspiracy” to wage war against the Government of India and sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment. Acquitting the four persons of the charge under Section 121 of IPC for waging war against Government of India, a division bench presided by Justice Joymalya Bagchi directed that the two Pakistani nationals – Md Younus and Md Abdullah, who have already served out the period of sentence, be pushed back to their country.
The court directed that of the two Indian nationals who were also found guilty of conspiracy to wage war against the country under Section 121A of IPC and have also served the sentence period, Muzaffar Ahamed Rather be released from the correctional home while Sk Nayeem is to be produced before Patiala House court in Delhi in connection with another case.
“In view of the acquittal under section 121 of IPC, death sentence and fine of Rs 50,000 each, imposed on the appellants on such score are set aside,” the division bench, also comprising Justice Ananya Badopadhyay, directed in its judgement on the appeals against a sessions court order that awarded the capital punishment.
The court said that since an offence under section 121A IPC deals with conspiracy to wage war or overawe the sovereign authority of a democratically elected government by show of criminal force, it is a grave one and “involves indoctrinated members of a terrorist organisation whose purpose is to strike terror and destabilise the nation.” Holding that the appellants are not men who were in the higher echelons of the terrorist organisation, the court observed that they are foot soldiers who were recruited through allurement or coercion for the activities of the organisation.
The court said that mitigating circumstances show the appellants are not prominent players in the organisation and there is little possibility of their reverting to the path of terrorism.
“As Md Younus and Md Abdullah have served out their sentences, appropriate authorities are directed to push them to their country of origin, that is, Pakistan,” the court directed.
The two Pakistani nationals were also found guilty under the Foreigners’ Act and were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, which were concurrent.
A district court in North 24 Parganas had sentenced three LeT terrorists – Md Younus, Md Abdullah and Muzaffar Ahamed Rather to death in January 2017 and awarded the capital sentence to the fourth terror module Abdul Nayeem in December 2018 for “waging war against the country”.
The division bench was hearing the death reference of the four as a high court has to confirm a capital sentence awarded by a sessions court, apart from their appeals against conviction and sentence.
On April 3, 2007, BSF had apprehended the four persons on suspicion of being members of terror outfit LeT and handed them over to the local police.
The West Bengal CID, which took over the probe, had charged them with waging war against the country and procuring arms and explosives, apart from other charges.
Nayeem had escaped from custody in 2013 while being taken to Maharashtra for interrogation in connection with Mumbai train blasts case in 2006, but was apprehended by NIA sleuths again in October, 2018.
While Rather was taken to Pakistan for arms training by the LeT, Nayeem was assigned to meet the three in Bangladesh and help them enter India and then take them to Jammu and Kashmir.
The four LeT operatives illegally crossed the border at Petrapole in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal and were thereafter apprehended by the BSF following a hot pursuit.