The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the death sentence awarded to underworld don Aftab Ahmed Ansari for the attack on the American Centre in Kolkata in 2002.
A vacation bench comprising Justices GS Singhvi and CK Prasad asked the West Bengal government to respond within four months to a petition filed by Ansari challenging his conviction and death sentence in the case.
Two motorcycle-borne men had indiscriminately fired with a AK-47 assault rifle at policemen outside the American Centre on Jawaharlal Nehru Road early in the morning of January 22, 2002 killing six of them and injuring 14 others.
A division bench of the Calcutta High Court had in February 2010 upheld the death sentence of Ansari along with co-accused Jamiluddin Nasir but commuted the capital punishment awarded to three others to seven years imprisonment after a hearing lasting 77 days.
Earlier this month, the apex court had stayed the death sentence awarded to Nasir.
The sessions court in April 2005 had sentenced Ansari, Nasir and three others to death while acquitting two others.
They were charged with sections 121 (waging war against the state), 121-A (conspiracy), 302 and 9 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC and 27(3) of the Arms Act.
Just four days after the attack, two persons -- Salim and Zahid -- were injured in an encounter with a Delhi police team in Hazaribagh in Jharkhand and they subsequently died. The police had come to know about the involvement of Ansari in the American Centre attack from their dying declarations.
Ansari 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.
Ansari used to run extortion and abduction rings in India and had set up bases in Kolkata, Agra, Mumbai, Malegaon and Surat.
The prosecution had examined 126 persons in the case to bring charges against Ansari and others.