NEW DELHI: A Pakistan national convicted for conspiring to wage war against the India has been awarded life imprisonment by the Delhi High Court.
Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Mukta Gupta handed down the jail term to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant Shahid Gafoor, holding that he and three others -- Bashir Ahmed Ponnu, Fayaz Ahmed Lone and Abdul Majeed Baba, had "conspired knowingly to facilitate the commission of a terrorist act and have carried out an act preparatory to the commission of a terrorist act".
"For offence punishable under Sections 121 (waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India) IPC, the minimum sentence prescribed is imprisonment for life and maximum punishment with death.
"Considering the fact that Shahid Gafoor has been in custody since January 29, 2007 and the nominal roll does not show any misconduct on his part, the sentence of imprisonment for life which is the minimum sentence would serve the purpose," the court said, while imposing a cost of Rs 2.6 lakh on Gafoor.
As per the prosecution, the special cell of Delhi police had received a tip-off in January 2007 that JeM intended to carry out 'fidayeen' attack at prominent places in the national capital and would be sending its operatives through the Indo-Bangla border.
Based on the tip-off, a trap was laid on February 4, 2007 and after a fierce encounter with police near Connaught Place all the four were arrested and a large quantity of explosives, grenades and cash were recovered from them.
Soon after the conviction in December last year, Gafoor who was lodged in Seva Sadan, Lampur was taken into custody and lodged in Tihar Jail here.
The bench has now listed the matter before the Registrar General for further proceedings regarding the arrest of Bashir Ahmed Ponnu, Fayyaz Ahmed Lone and Abdul Majeed Baba, who along with Gafoor, were acquitted by a trial court in 2013.
While Gafoor was taken into custody, the other three were not traceable. The bench said if anyone of the three was arrested, they should be remanded to custody in Tihar Jail and the court informed. The judgement had come on the state's appeal against the trial court's 2013 decision acquitting all the four accused.
Allowing the prosecution plea, the court had said it has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Bashir, Fayaz, Abdul and Gafoor had entered into a criminal conspiracy to wage war against the country, collected arms, ammunitions and explosives with the intention to wage war and concealed the design thereof.
It had further said in its 49-page judgement that "though in the present case there is no material evidence before this court to show that the respondents are members of a terrorist organisation, however from the acts of the respondents, which have been proved beyond reasonable doubt, it is evidently proved that they can be termed as members of a terrorist group/gang".
Besides Explosive Substance Act and Arms Act, the court had also held them guilty of conspiring to "raise funds as a terrorist gang to facilitate the commission of a terrorist activity".
Advocate Saahila Lamba appearing for Gafoor had sought leniency on the ground that he has been away from his family since January 2007, so minimum sentence be awarded. On other hand Additional Public Prosecutor Varun Goswami, appearing for the state had contended that offences committed by Gafoor in connivance with others were very serious and they perpetrated terrorism.