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Sentence in Parliament case on Wednesday

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
December 17, 2002 20:59 IST
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Special Judge S N Dhingra, who has been hearing the Parliament attack case, on Tuesday reserved his judgment for Wednesday after hearing the arguments of both sides on the quantum of sentence to be handed down to the four convicted persons in police custody.

The judge had on Monday held Mohammed Afzal, suspended professor of Delhi university A R Geelani and Shaukat Hussain Guru guilty for waging war against India by conspiring with five terrorists to attack Parliament on December 13, 2001.

They were convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

Shaukat's wife Navjot Sandhu alias Afsan Guru was held guilty under section 123 of the Indian Penal Code for not disclosing to the police the presence of dangerous persons in her house, including her own husband.

The five terrorists Raza, Rana, Hamza, Haider and Mohammed were gunned down by the security forces, but not before they had killed nine persons, including one gardener, and injuring 16.

Afsan Guru and Shaukat's counsel Nitya Ramakrishnan pleaded for a lighter sentence for Afsan saying, "She has not been found guilty under POTA though she was booked under it. She would have been bailed out under any other provision (except under POTA) particularly as she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy."

"She did not know Kashmiri and hence unaware of what the others were up to. She has suffered mentally. She is not in a fit mental condition. The sentence should be limited to the period that she has already spent in jail," she pleaded.

"What deterrence can the death sentence be to those who are willing to die?" she argued.

"By handing down the death sentence, we would be making them martyrs in the eyes of a particular section of society and further alienate them," she said.

She pointed out that her client Shaukat Guru had no previous record and  had acted under fear of the terrorists who were armed. She quoted Justice P N Bhagwati to drive home the point that civil society was moving away from the death sentence.

Geelani's counsel Seema Gulati said her client, being a teacher, was the member of a respectful and noble profession.

"He has no previous criminal record. He deserves a chance to improve. The only thing that goes against him is a confessional statement of a co-accused that he used to be present when their meetings took place. He (Geelani) has no direct involvement in the crime. He should be given another chance," she pleaded.

Prosecution lawyer D P Aggarwal said the attack comes under the rarest of rare cases and hence the convicted persons did not deserve any mercy. "They should be given the maximum penalty, death in this case," he said during a brief intervention.

Thereafter, Dhingra said he would give his verdict on Wednesday at 1100 IST.

The Attack on Parliament: Complete Coverage

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi