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The Supreme Court Monday stayed the death sentence of Mohammed Jamiluddin Nasir who is one of the two convicts sent to the gallows for an attack on the American Center in Kolkata Jan 22, 2002, that left six policemen dead.

Besides staying the death sentence of Nasir till the time his appeal is pendening, an apex court bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice Deepak Verma and Justice B.S. Chauhan issued notices on an appeal by the West Bengal government.

The state government challenged the lower sentences awarded to five other convicts in the attack and demanded that their sentences be enhanced.

Counsel Nitya Ramakrishnan appearing for Nasir said that the other convict, Aftab Ahmed Ansari, awarded death sentence on charges of waging war against the country, was also in the process of filing an appeal.

Both convicts were awarded death terms by the trial court April 26, 2005. The death sentence was confirmed by the Calcutta High Court Feb 5, 2010.

The trial court had acquitted two accused — Shakil Mallik and Dilip Kumar Kantilla — and awarded death to seven accused for their involvement in the 2002 attack.

On a reference, the high court only confirmed death penalty of the Nasir and Ansari and let off the other five with lighter sentences.

Those let off with lighter sentences included Adil Hussain, Rehan Alam, Musarat Hussain, Husrat Alam and Shakir Akhtar.

In its appeal through counsel Abhijit Bhattacharjee, the state government contended that the high court judgment acquitting the five of the charge of waging war and convicting them on lesser count of forging documents was “erroneous both in fact and law”.

The government’s appeal petition faulted the high court for failing to see that all of them were a part of a larger conspiracy to wage war against the country.

Their acts were steps in the ultimate act of waging war against the country and could not be seen in isolation, the petition said.

One group which printed fake documents knew that it was to be for criminal acts to be carried out in India and the other had knowledge of who they were working for, the petition by the West Bengal government said.

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