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Apex court rejects Afzal's plea

J. Venkatesan

Death sentence upheld; "no merits" in curative petition



Mohammed Afzal

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentence awarded to Mohammad Afzal in the December 13, 2001 Parliament attack case. His mercy petition is pending with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Observing "no merits," a four-Judge Bench of Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Justices K.G. Balakrishnan, B.N. Agrawal and P.P. Naolekar dismissed Afzal's curative petition seeking a reconsideration of the punishment.

The Bench also rejected a similar petition filed by co-accused Shaukat Hussain, who was awarded 10-year rigorous imprisonment.

The curative petitions followed the dismissal of their review petitions by a two-Judge Bench of the court in 2005.

Afzal submitted that he was denied a fair trial in the Sessions Court. The Judge failed to follow the procedure laid down by the Delhi Legal Aid Rules in providing effective legal representation. Counsel who was not his choice was appointed amicus curiae. This affected the framework within which a trial proceeded and required no proof of prejudice. This was a Constitutional error, he contended.

Afzal said a gross miscarriage of justice was caused by the August 4, 2005 judgment. There was a departure from the norms laid down by the court, violating the petitioner's fundamental right to have competent legal representation. Under Article 21 of the Constitution (right to life and liberty), no person could be deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to the procedure established by law. The impugned order and the judgment under challenge were liable to be set aside as the Sessions Court had failed to follow the procedure, he said.

In his curative petition, Shaukat Hussain pleaded for reducing the sentence. He said the court had not properly considered the various grounds raised by him.

Fifteen people, including five terrorists, who stormed the Parliament complex, were killed in the 2001 attack.

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