NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the death sentence of Lashker-e-Taiba terrorist Mohd Arif alias Ashfaq in the 2000 Red Fort attack and said the "arrogant" assault was a "brazen attempt" by Pakistan "to overawe" India and wage a war against it.
"It was a blatant, brazen faced and audacious act aimed to overawe the government of India. It was meant to show that the enemy could with impunity reach and destroy the very vitals of an institution so dear to our fellow countrymen for what it signified for them," the Court said without naming Pakistan.
Three army jawans were killed when LeT terrorists opened fire indiscriminately at the Red Fort on December 22, 2000. "This was not only an attack on Red Fort or the army stationed therein, this was an arrogant assault on the self-respect of this great nation. It was a well thought out insult offered to question the sovereignty of this great nation by foreign nationals. Therefore, this case becomes a rarest of rare case."
"This was nothing but an undeclared war by some foreign mercenaries like the present appellant and his other partner in conspiracy, Abu Shamal and some others who either got killed or escaped," Mr Justice Sirpurkar writing the judgement said.
A two judge bench of Mr Justice V S Sirpurkar and Mr Justice T S Thakur rejected the argument of defence lawyer, Ms Kamini Jaiswal that Ashfaq was falsely implicated as he was a Pakistani national and said the investigating agency had done a commendable and meticulous job in cracking the case. "We must immediately note that the criticism is entirely misplaced, both against the investigating agency and the courts below. "The investigation in this case was both scientific and fair investigation. This was one of the most difficult cases to be investigated as there could have been no clue available to the investigating agency," the bench said in a nearly 200-page judgement.
The Apex Court had reserved its verdict on Ashfaq’s appeal on April 20, 2011. Ashfaq had challenged the Delhi High Court’s judgement dated September 13, 2007, which had upheld the death penalty awarded to him by a sessions court but had acquitted six others sentenced for varying jail terms.
The High Court had dismissed Ashfaq’s appeal against a trial court verdict awarding capital punishment to him for waging a war against the state and killing three persons, including two Army jawans in the Red Fort.
It had reversed the trial court findings against six convicts including Srinagar-based father and son duo Nazir Ahmed Qasid and Farooq Ahmed Qasid, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, and Ashfaq’s Indian wife, Rehamana Yosuf Farooqui. She was given a seven-year jail term. They were earlier found guilty of harbouring Mohd Ashfaq, one of the six militants, who had sneaked into the 17th century monument and opened indiscriminate fire on the guards of seventh battalion of Rajputana Rifles, killing three.