The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld conviction of the two persons responsible for the attack on American Center in Kolkata 12 years ago but commuted their death sentences to life.
A bench of Justice AK Patnaik and Justice FMI Khalifulla ordered imprisonment of Aftab Ahmad Ansari, the mastermind behind the attack, till his death. The other convict, Jamiluddin Nasir, will spend at least 30 years in jail without remission, the court said.
Describing the terror attack as “devilish, diabolic, horrendous, vicious” impinging on the sovereign authority of the country,” the court said, adding death wasn’t warranted in the case but called for “other deterrent punishment.”
“Appellant Aftab deserves to be imprisoned for the entirety of his life while in the case of appellant Nasir he can be imposed with a life imprisonment for a minimum period of 30 years,” the court said. Justice Khalifulla, who wrote the judgement, added “the role of Nasir was always a shade lesser than what can be attributed to Aftab.”
The court passed the order on appeals filed by Aftab and Nasir challenging the February 2010 Calcutta High Court order which had confirmed their death sentence by the trial court for waging war against the country. SC had in 2010 stayed the death sentence awarded to them.
On January 22, 2002 two motorcycle-borne men had indiscriminately fired with an AK-47 assault rifle at policemen outside the American Center on Jawaharlal Nehru Road killing five police personnel and injuring 13 police personnel and other civilians.
Seventeen persons were named as accused in the case. Only nine were sent for trial out of which four were acquitted and three convicted under lesser offences. From the remaining eight, two were shot dead in an encounter, five remain untraced and one is still facing trial.
Aftab was arrested from Dubai thereafter and was deported to India on February 9, 2002 to face trial. He was part of terror outfit Asif Reza Commando Force (ARCF) that reportedly had links with Harkat-ul-Jehadi-e-Islam.
After going through the evidences, SC said the attack demonstrated the diabolic mindset of all the conspirators and a war like situation was created, though no pomp and pageantry associated with war was not present.
Watch: American Center blast case: SC commutes death sentence of two convicts?