Gandhinagar, May 11 (IANS) The Gujarat High Court Tuesday confirmed the conviction of two people under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act (POTA) for attacking a Surat-based lawyer and rightwing Hindu activist Hasmukh Lalwala as part of their Jihad.
A division bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Z.K. Saiyed rejected the appeal of Mohammed Ashraf Ismail Nagori and Mohammed Tahir Mohammed Arif Bakaswala against their conviction in a designated POTA court.
The accused men and Lalwala had no personal enmity but the accused persons’ intention was to attack him as part of their Jihad, the court said.
The court observed that the right meaning of Jihad was not to take revenge or inflict violence on the innocent.
“If Jihad means war, then the war is to play a role only if inevitable,” it said.
“Neither Hinduism nor Islam permit revenge. History is witness to the fact that Hindu religion has accepted people from different countries following different religions. Hinduism is based on principle of live and let others live. Likewise, Islam follows the principles of tolerance and peace,” the court said.
Designated POTA Judge Soniya Gokani awarded seven years’ rigorous imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs.20,000 on the two convicts Aug 4, 2005.
They were held guilty of conspiring and attacking Lalwala to create an atmosphere of terror in Surat.
The petitioners contended they were coerced into making confessional statements which had no evidentiary value in the trial.
Counsel for state sought enhancement of the sentence awarded to them by the designated court. But the plea was rejected by the high court.
The division bench observed that attacking Lalwala to teach the Hindu community a lesson was an act to create terror in society.
The court said that such acts by citizens harm the integrity of the nation.
Justice Patel said: “India being a secular nation as a whole cannot force or grant a particular religion to profess. If the citizens of the state encourage divisiveness on the basis of religion, it would lead to division of the nation and certainly damage the unity, integrity and security of the state.”
The two convicts attacked Lalwala May 21, 2002, near a Jain temple in Surat. The victim was shot and injured.
Police booked five people in the case. Two accused have died and one is still absconding.