New Delhi: Last Friday, a court in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, convicted six men, including two Pakistani nationals, for the 1 January 2008 attack on a CRPF camp, in which seven personnel and a civilian were killed.
Additional District Judge (II) Sanjay Kumar Singh handed down the death penalty to four of the convicts — Mohammed Sharif from Rampur, Imran Shahzad and Mohammed Farooq from Pakistan, and Sabauddin from Bihar. The fifth convict, Jang Bahadur from Moradabad, received a life term, while Fahim Ansari from Mumbai, who was found guilty of holding fake passports and illegal weapons, got a 10-year jail term. Two other men were acquitted.
ThePrint analyses the judgment to explain why the court handed out different sentences for the same heinous crime.
What have the men been convicted for?
The men were convicted under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 302 (murder), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon) and 121 (waging war against the government). They were also found guilty under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, and the Arms Act, 1959.
In the 205-page judgment authored in Hindi, judge Singh rejected the contentions that the men were falsely accused and weapons were planted on them, asserting that AK-47 rifles are not the sort of weapons that the police could plant on anybody to falsely accuse them.
The judgment further ruled out the involvement of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the attack, as had been alleged, but ruled that the accused did form a “terrorist gang” under the UAPA.
The court also acquitted two suspects — Gulab Khan from Bareilly and Mohammad Kausar from Pratapgarh — who were accused of keeping the weapons at their houses. But the court held that the accusations had not been proven.
Acquitted in 26/11 case, convicted now
Two of the convicts, Sabauddin and Ansari, had earlier been acquitted by the Bombay High Court as well as the Supreme Court in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case. The Mumbai Crime Branch had alleged that the map found on Ajmal Kasab was made by Ansari, while Sabauddin had been booked for providing logistical support.
The order convicting Ansari noted that some maps of Mumbai were found with him, and that he possessed a fake passport and a fake driving licence. This, the court said, proved that Ansari was a “man of suspicious conduct”, and such a person should be under “constant vigilance”.
The court, however, observed that he cannot be convicted under IPC sections 121 and 121A for waging war against the government merely on the basis of the documents recovered from him.
He was then convicted for several offences including IPC Sections 420 (cheating) and 467 (forgery), apart from the provisions of the Arms Act and Explosive Substances Act, 1908.
No Lashkar connection
The court took note of the allegations that the attack was conducted in a planned manner by Pakistan through banned terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
It was alleged that Imran Shahzad and Mohammed Farooq are members of the LeT, and that they were “trained” specifically to carry out a planned attack. The court was also informed that after they were arrested, they disclosed the plan for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, and that the UP anti-terror squad had swiftly informed Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare about it.
Judge Singh, however, noted that there was no evidence to support the contention that they were a part of any terrorist organisation listed under Schedule 1 of the UAPA.
The court opined that since they attacked the camps with AK-47s, grenades and bombs to “threaten the security and integrity of the state and spread terror”, it was clear that they formed a “terrorist gang” to carry out an “act of terrorism”.
Sharif, Sabauddin, Imran, Farooq and Jang Bahadur were then held guilty under Sections 16 (punishment for terrorist act) and 20 (punishment for being a member of a terrorist gang) of the UAPA.
Accused’s contentions: Drunk officers, tampered prints
The accused had claimed that on the night of the incident, CRPF officers were celebrating the New Year and had been drinking. Thus, they had asserted, it was the officers who had fired under the influence of alcohol, leading to the entire fiasco. They had asserted that they were falsely accused to save the CRPF’s reputation.
To prove that they were not present at the camp, the accused had submitted that the CRPF officers had collectively fired 98 rounds in self-defence, pointing out that it was unbelievable that none of those bullets had hit one of the accused. But the court rejected this contention.
The accused had also pointed out that the truth of the incident cannot be determined as the CRPF officers did not allow policemen to enter the camp after the incident. The court, however, rejected this contention too, observing: “CRPF was formed for protection of the country and its citizens. If CRPF came under this brutal an attack where seven of its officers died, then it is a cause of concern for CRPF and its officials. In such a situation, it was not unnatural that the CRPF did not allow the police force to enter for some time.”
The court further noted that the fingerprints obtained in the camp matched those of Farooq and Shahzad. The accused had claimed that the fingerprint samples could have been tampered with as it was not clear who handled them until 3 January 2008, when the prints were finally sent for examination. But the court opined that if the officers intended to falsify the evidence, they could’ve done it for the remaining accused as well to place them at the scene of crime.
Arguments over sentencing
As for the sentencing, the accused argued that the crime committed by them did not fall in the “rarest of the rare” category. They had further pointed out that the accused did not have any past convictions.
Judge Singh, however, noted that they had attacked the CRPF camp without any provocation, killing seven officers and a civilian.
“Most of the CRPF officers killed were quite young. One officer, Anand Kumar, got married only a year before. The crime by the [four] accused falls in the ‘rarest of the rare’ category without a doubt,” it observed, while handing down death penalty for murder and under Section 27(3) of the Arms Act.
The court was told that Jang Bahadur was a 70-year-old poor man with 10 children, and that all the accused had been in jail for the past 11-12 years. The judge noted that it was not contended he had fired at the camp, and sentenced him to life imprisonment instead.