Sixteen years after 13 people were killed in a powerful blast in the Capital’s busy Lajpat Nagar market, the Delhi High Court on Thursday set free two alleged Jammu Kashmir Islamic Front (JKIF) militants sentenced to death by a trial court in April 2010, slamming the police for a “slipshod” probe.
1996 Lajpat Nagar blast convicts Mohd Ali Bhatt, Mirza Nissar Hussain and Mohd Naushad, being escorted by security personnel after they were awarded the death penalty by a court in New Delhi on Thursday.
The death penalty of another convict was reduced to life imprisonment.
Noting that its verdict was forced by the shoddy investigation of the Delhi Police, a bench of justice S Ravindra Bhat and justice GP Mittal said the police could not adduce even “the minimum standard of proof” and was “casual” in its approach.
“Proper test identification parade was not conducted, statements of vital witnesses were not recorded. There was also absence of daily diary entries in the case. Proper record of telephone calls have also not being maintained,” the bench said.
Delhi Police counsel Pawan Sharma said the acquittals will be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Suspected JKIF militants had triggered the high intensity blast on May 21, 1996 using explosives planted in a stolen Maruti car, killing 13 people and injuring 38. Those acquitted are Mirza Nissar Hussain and Mohd Ali Bhat alias Kille.
Reducing militant Mohd Naushad’s death penalty to life term, the court said, “in our view the case would not fall in the category of rarest of rare cases and the award of extreme penalty of sentence to death cannot be confirmed”.
The bench, however, upheld the life sentence given to a fourth convict Javed Ahmad Khan alias Chotta Javed.There were a total of 10 accused in the case. The trial court had on April 12, 2010 convicted six accused, awarding death sentence to Naushad, Bhatt and Hussain.Two other convicts, Farooq Ahmed Khan and his woman accomplice Farida Dar, were sentenced to imprisonment for seven years and four years and two months, respectively.