Justice in Gujarat: Court concludes final hearing 14 months ago, accused in jail waiting for verdict

By TwoCircles.Net Staff Correspondent,

Ahmedabad: A division bench of the Gujarat High Court comprising Justice Rekhaben Doshit and Justice K M Thakar concluded final arguments in the petition challenging the POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) court judgement in the Akshardham terror case 14 months ago but the accused imprisoned in Sabarmati Central Jail are still awaiting the order.

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The delay in pronouncement of the judgement, according to family members of the accused, is causing them lot of mental stress and strain and affecting their health.

On June 30, 2006, POTA court here had awarded death sentence to three accused, Chand Khan, Adam Suleman Ajmeri and Abdul Qayyum Muhammed Hussain Mansuri, life term to Muhammed Salim Sheikh, 10 years and five years of imprisonment to Mufti Abdullah Miyan Yasin Miyan Qadri and Altaf Hussain Asghar Hussain Malik, respectively.

Altaf Malik, however, has been released as he has already completed five year term. But the five other accused are still languishing in jail. Chand Khan, a resident of Bareilly in UP, was caught from Kashmir where he was working as a driver.

Though the judgement was challenged in the high court in July 2006, the court proceedings took almost two years for commencement of hearing and arguments on it.

However, the arguments were completed within one month – they began on March 25, 2008 and concluded on April 25, 2008. But the bench is yet to pronounce its verdict on it.

Irfan Sheikh, brother of Salim Sheikh said that Salim, through his advocates Ejaz Qureshi and Khalid Sheikh, moved the high court seeking 25 day’s parole to meet his 63-year-old ailing mother suffering from severe cardiac problems.

But the court rejected the plea saying that the court was preparing to pronounce the judgement in a short time.

In February 2009, Salim again moved an application to the high court chief justice, registrar (judicial), and Supreme Court chief justice praying for an early judgement in the matter contending that a delay in the judgement was causing mental tension to him as well as his family, including her old mother. Due to her serious illness, his mother Mumtaz Bano has not been able to go to the Sabarmati Jail for the last nine months to meet him.

Irfan says there has been no response on it so far.

Chronology of the case:

*Alleged Pakistan-based militants attack Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar(Gujarat’s capital) on September 24, 2002.

*A total of 29 visitors to the temple killed and 81 others injured in the gunfire by the militants.

*Two national security guards commandos and two state commandos killed in an operation to flush out militants.

*The two militants, in their early 20s, identified as Murtuza Yasin and Ashraf Ali Muhammed Farooq allegedly belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba gunned down by commandos.

*Gandhinagar local crime branch begins investigation.

*Investigation is then transferred to Anti Terror Squad because of the special nature of the case.

*However, it was transferred to Ahmedabad Crime Branch on August 27, 2003.

*Six accused arrested on August 28, 2003.

*Trial commenced in POTA court in November 2003.

*POTA court pronounces its verdict on June 30, 2006, after three years, confirming death sentence to three and imprisonment to three others.

*Order challenged in the Gujarat High Court in July 2006.

*Hearing and argument by the high court concluded on April 25, 2008. Verdict still awaited.