SC upholds death penalty for Afzal

New Delhi, Aug 4 | Updated: Aug 5 2005, 05:30am hrs
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the death penalty of Jaish-e-Mohd militant Mohd Afzal in the Parliament attack case of 2001 in which nine people were killed. However, it reduced the capital punishment of his cousin and another accused in the case, Shaukat Hussain Guru, to 10 years of imprisonment, apart from acquitting Shaukats wife Afsan Guru and SAR Geelani, a Delhi University lecturer.

A Bench comprising Justice PV Reddi and Justice PP Naolekar, in a 271-page judgment, justified the capital punishment for Afzal saying The collective conscience of the society will be satisfied only if the death penalty is imposed on him.

It also added that there was clinching evidence against Afzal regarding his nexus with the slain militant who carried out the terrorist act of most diabolical nature. By committing the treason and waging war against the nation, he had lost his right to life, the court said.

However, the Bench upheld the Delhi High Courts verdict setting aside the death penalty of Geelani by the trial court even though it raised a finger of suspicion at the academician.

While taking note of the untruthful pleas raised by Geelani about his contacts with Shaukat and Afzal, the apex court said Geelanis conduct at the time of the Parliament attack was disturbing and gave rise to serious suspicion against him. But the court added that suspicion alone, howsoever grave, could not be the ground for the conviction.

While convicting Shaukat, who was awarded the death penalty by both the trial court and the high court, the SC held him guilty of having the knowledge of the conspiracy. However, it spared him the capital punishment on the ground that he had not participated in hatching the plot to attack. Besides 10 years of rigorous imprisonment, it imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on him and ordered an additional year of imprisonment in case of any default in paying the fine.