BENGALURU: The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday commuted to life in prison the death penalty awarded to eight convicts for the serial blasts in churches across Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa in 2000.
A division bench of Justices N Kumar and Ratnakala also confirmed the sentence of imprisonment for life for 13 others. The court was hearing appeals filed by the convicts and the reference made by the state government for confirmation of death penalty awarded by a TADA court.
The prosecution alleged that the convicts were part of the Deendar Channabasaveshwara Anjuman sect which was headed by Zia-ul-Hassan. Hassan and his four children are believed to be hiding in Pakistan and have been declared as proclaimed offenders.
“It is of utmost importance that a strong message is to be sent to all these misguided, evil-minded elements in the society and in particular, the youth…to desist from indulging in any such anti-social activities…. This is a country and state which equally belong to all religious denominations,” observed the court in the judgment which runs to over 500 pages.
On June 8, 2000, two bombs had exploded at St Anne’s Church in Wadi, Gulbarga. On July 8, 2000, bombs exploded at St John’s Luthern Church, Hubballi. The next day, bombs exploded at St Peter and Paul Church, J J Nagar, Bengaluru. Within minutes of the blast, a van carrying people who planted the bombs also blew up accidentally on Magadi Road, leaving two of the accused — Zakir and Siddiqi — dead and another accused, S M Ibrahim, injured. According to the prosecution, the blasts were carried out with the intention of causing public disharmony.
The convicts who were awarded capital punishment were Syed Mohammed Ibrahim, who worked as an accounts manager in a private firm and accused in the blast at St Peter and Paul Church in J J Nagar in city. Agarbathi seller Izhar Baig, carpenter Syed Abbas Ali, book seller Mohammed Sharafuddin, A/C mechanic Mohammed Khalid Chowdhury and videographer Sheikh Ashim Ali were accused of blasts at St Ann Church at Wadi, Gulbarga. Railway employee Syed Muraudin Mulah and chilli seller Mohammed Akil Ahmed were accused in blast at St John Lutheran Church at Keshvapura, Hubballi.
The designated TADA court judge had convicted 23 people for waging war against the nation, criminal conspiracy and sedition. Of the 23 convicts, the court awarded capital punishment to eight. Three of the accused died while trying to escape after planting a bomb at a church in Bengaluru.
As per the prosecution’s case, the conspiracy was hatched in October 1999 in Hyderabad during the death anniversary of Deendar founder Hazrath Moulana Siddiqui. Siddiqui’s son Zia-ul-Hassan and his sons had visited Hyderabad for the event.
Wife of Accused Committed Suicide
The division bench expressed grief over the death of the wife of one of the accused who died in the blast. The woman had committed suicide by dousing herself in kerosene and setting herself afire after she came to know that her husband was involved in terror activity. Sympathizing with the woman, the court observed that her marriage had been performed in the Deendar Anjuman Ashram at Asifnagar, Hyderabad in 1999, without proper verification. “This innocent lady of the state lost her life because she was brought up in an altogether different culture,” the court observed.
What is this Anjuman?? Read here