PATNA: Five Indian Mujahideen militants, convicted by a special NIA court here in the 2013 Bodh Gaya blasts case, were sentenced to life imprisonment today.
Special NIA judge Manoj Kumar Sinha also slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 each on the five accused -- Imtiyaz Ansari, Haider Ali, Mujib Ullah, Omair Siddiqui and Azharuddin Qureishi -- who had been convicted on May 25.
The world-renowned Buddhist pilgrimage town Bodh Gaya, about 90 km from capital Patna, was rocked by a series of blasts on July 7, 2013 which had left a number of people, including some monks, injured though there were no casualties.
In addition to the five convicts, another accused Taufiq Ahmed was held guilty in the case by a juvenile court in October last year and sent to a remand home for three years.
All the six are also among those facing trial in the Patna blasts case of October, 2013, when a series of explosions took place at the historic Gandhi Maidan while the maiden rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then Gujarat chief minister, was underway.
Talking to reporters after the verdict was pronounced, special public prosecutor Lalan Kumar Sinha said, "The court was fully convinced with our contention that the intention of the accused was to cause heavy casualties and hence they deserved the maximum possible punishment." "Since no deaths had taken place in the series of xplosions, the court did not award capital punishment," he said.
Sinha also said that among the five convicts, "Haider Ali was punished with an extra fine of Rs 10,000 because it was established that on the basis of admissible evidence, he had entered the Bodhi Temple premises shortly before the blasts took place." "On this account, he was found guilty under Section 158 of the Indian Penal Code, in addition to the sections of IPC and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act under which others have also been charged," he said.
However, defence lawyer Surya Prakash Singh expressed dissatisfaction with the judgement, saying "our plea was that our clients were young, in a confused state of mind, and displayed good conduct during the trial period and hence they be awarded less severe punishment. It was ignored".
"This was inspite of a number of shortcomings in the investigation.
One of the guards, posted at the temple on the day of the incident, had said that he saw four to five foreigners sneaking inside the premises whom he could identify.
The probe agency did not trace the foreigners to get them identified," Singh said.
"Moreover, CCTV footage of the relevant period, which could have given a better idea of the movements at that point of time, were not brought on record.
We are confident that when we go to the higher courts in appeal, our contention will be taken into account and the trial court order will be set aside," he added.