Today: Jun 19, 2024

Delhi HC reduces 5 ‘radicalised OGWs’ life term to 10 years

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New Delhi:  The Delhi High Court on Monday reduced to 10 years the life term awarded to allegedly “highly-radicalised over ground workers” of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in a case lodged under the anti-terror law probed by the NIA.

A bench headed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait observed that the five appellants, who had pleaded guilty before the trial court, allegedly conspired to commit terrorist acts in India but there was no finding against them that they actually committed any such act.

The court said there was nothing on record that would compel the awarding of life term under section 121A (conspiracy to commit offences against State) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 23 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on “enhanced penalties”, adding that the appellants were very much desirous of reforming themselves and joining the mainstream.

The court’s order came on appeals filed by Bilal Ahmad Mir, Sajad Ahmad Khan, Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, Mehraj Ud Din Chopan and Ishfaq Ahmad Bhat against the trial court’s order on their sentence passed in November 2022, after they were convicted for the commission of various offences under the IPC and the UAPA.

“The man who has a conscience suffers whilst acknowledging his sin. We refer to a quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the author of ‘Crime and Punishment’. In chapter 19, Dostoevsky writes that ‘if he has a conscience, he will suffer for his mistake; that will be punishment as well as the prison’,” the bench, also comprising Justice Manoj Jain, said.

“Keeping in mind the gravity of the matter, though the appellants did not deserve any unjustifiable leniency, at the same time, considering their candid confession at the first opportunity, their relatively clean antecedents, inclination for reformation and their young age, the life sentence was not warranted either,” the court said.

It said the trial court’s approach should have been to “reform” and “it is a fit case where the sentence awarded under section 121A, IPC and section 23, UAPA needs to be reduced”.

The court remarked that it would be hazardous to assume that merely because of their “despicable past”, the appellants have no future, especially when there is nothing on record to suggest that they were beyond redemption.

It also took into account that the socio-economic reports of the appellants, who were of “young age”, revealed that the economic condition of their families was “very modest” and there was no other conviction to their credit.

“They do need to be given a ‘ray of hope’. In the case in hand, we are fully cognizant of the fact that the appellants had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, without any expectation. India has shown enough progression in all spheres and our justice delivery system is no exception. One can always condemn the sin, but not the sinner,” the court observed.

“We do feel that in the present case, ends of justice would be met if instead of a maximum of life sentence, the appellants are punished with rigorous imprisonment for 10 years,” the court concluded.