Six Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islami terrorists, including three from Pakistan, who plotted to abduct cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly in 2002 were Monday sentenced to eight-year jail terms by the Delhi High Court. A trial court had earlier awarded them life terms.
A division bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice S.P. Garg modified the order on sentence and reduced the convicts’ life term to eight years on the ground of parity with three other convicts.
The lower court had held all the six men guilty under various anti-terror and penal provisions. The convicts from Pakistan are Tariq Mohammed, Arshad Khan and Ashfaq Ahmed. The three Indians are Mufti Israr, Ghulam Qadir Bhatt and Ghulam Mohd Dar.
Bhatt Monday sought acquittal in the case in the high court. To this the court asked him to file an affidavit Tuesday as to whether he accepted the reduced sentence or he wanted to argue for an outright acquittal.
The court said that the period for which Dar remained out on bail would be declared as part of the “undergone” jail term. Dar has spent more than six years in jail.
The HuJI terrorists contended that the court earlier reduced the jail term of three of their associates, who pleaded guilty earlier, to eight years.
On Jan 15, 2011, the lower court awarded life imprisonment to all the six HuJI terrorists under the stringent Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) saying the punishment “must send a clear message that India is not nor will it become a safe haven for terrorists”.
Apart from plotting to abduct the two cricketers, the accused also planned to attack Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai and assassinate then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2002.
The convicts faced trial for offences of collecting arms with the intention of waging war against the nation and conspiring to commit offences against the state.
Besides the POTA, the accused were charged under the Arms Act and the three Pakistanis were also tried under the Foreigners Act.