Apex court stays death sentence of 3 Akshardham attackers

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the death sentence of three accused in connection with the Akshardham temple attack case of September 24, 2002 in which 34 persons, including two National Security Guard (NSG) commandos were killed.

An apex court bench of Justice B. Sudarshan Reddy and Justice S. Nijjar stayed the death sentence.

The court also issued notice to the Gujarat Government on their petition of seeking a quashing of the death sentences.

The court also stayed the life sentence of one convict and a 10-year-prison sentence given to an other convict in the same case.

The Akshardham Temple was stormed by terrorists in September 2002. Thirty-four people were killed and over 80 people were injured in the incident that lasted 14 hours.

The investigations, initially handled by the Gandhinagar Police, were passed on to the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), and then to the Ahmedabad Crime Branch, which arrested six persons.

Apex court upholds death for man in family’s murder

The Supreme Court Monday confirmed the death sentence awarded to a man for killing his step mother, step brother and sister in 1996 in Mukherjee Nagar area of the national capital, saying the murder was carried out in an ‘extremely brutal, gruesome, diabolical’ manner.

The court also confirmed the life sentence awarded to the co-accused Ashok.

The court also said the murders committed by Atbir and his aide were ‘revolting as to shock the collective conscience of the community’.

The apex court bench comprised Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Dr. B.S.Chauhan.

Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Sathasivam said: ‘The cold blooded murder is committed with deliberate design in order to inherit the entire property of Jaswant Singh without waiting for his death.’

Atbir is son of Jaswant Singh from his first wife Chandrawati. Besides Atbir, Jaswant Singh had two more children Satbir and Anju from his first wife. Jaswant Singh subsequently deserted Chandra and married Sheela Devi. From his second wife Jaswant Singh had one son Manish alias Mannu and a daughter Sonu alias Savita.

On Jan 22, 1996, Atbir along with Chandra, Ashok and one more went to the house of Sheela Devi and demanded money. When she refused, she and her son were stabbed to death and Sonu too was stabbed and succumbed to injuries later in hospital after making a dying declaration.

The magnitude of the crime is also enormous in proportion since Atbir, with the assistance of his mother and brother, committed multiple murders of all the members of the family, the judgment said. The victims are innocent who could not have provided even an excuse much less a provocation for murder, the verdict said.

Taking into account the hunger and lust for property of Atbir killing his own family members, the court concluded that it is a gravest case of extreme culpability and rarest of rare case and death sentence alone would be proper and adequate.

The judgment noted that another aggravating circumstance was that the crime had been committed and executed after closing the doors with all the three deceased being left helpless and unarmed.

‘Closing of the door and bolting it from inside clearly shows the determination to complete the crime and take away the life of all the three,’ the judgment pointed out.

Since the conviction of Atbir and Ashok was based solely on the dying declaration of Sonu alias Savita, the court held that a ‘coherent and consistent’ dying declaration, made by a deceased who was in a ‘fit state of mind’ at the time of making the statement, could be the sole basis of conviction of the accused.

However, the trial court will have to guard that such a dying declaration was not the result of ‘tutoring, prompting and imagination’, said the judgment. The court said this because in the course of the arguments the counsel for Atbir and Ashok had challenged their conviction and sentencing on the grounds that it was solely based on the dying declaration of Sonu.

Kasab gets two new lawyers, to challenge death sentence

The Bombay High Court Tuesday appointed lawyers Amin Solkar and Farhana Shah for Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, who will challenge his death sentence in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case.

The Maharashtra State Legal Cell Tuesday appointed Solkar and Shah as Kasab’s legal representatives after the terrorist requested that a lawyer be appointed to represent him in the high court.

Solkar said he would file an appeal challenging the death sentence handed down to Kasab for his role in the November 2008 terror attacks case.

‘I am waiting for the judgment copy and other relevant papers before we file the appeal challenging the order of the special court,’ Solkar told IANS shortly after his new assignment in the high-profile case.

Expressing ‘happiness’ at being chosen for the high-profile case, Solkar said he intended to get down to business as soon as the necessary documents were received.

Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist captured alive from the 26/11 Mumbai attack, was awarded the death penalty by Special Judge M.L. Tahaliyani May 6.

Kasab last week wrote a letter to the Bombay High Court through the superintendent of the Arthur Road Central Jail, saying the death sentence was not acceptable to him and that he wanted legal assistance to fight his case.