An Unfair Verdict: A Critique of the Red Fort Judgment

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{mosimage}ON FRIDAY, 22 DECEMBER 2000, at about 9 p.m., a firing incident took place inside the Red Fort at Delhi which housed, since 1857 and untilrecently, an Army garrison. Three Army personnel of the 7th Battalion of the Rajputana Rifles, died in the attack. While those who perpetrated the crime escaped, subsequent investigation conducted by the police led to an alleged Lashkar-e-Tayeba (LeT) militant Md. Ashfaq, who was arrested onlate night of 25th December along with his wife Rehmana. It is claimed that onthe basis of the information received from him, the police killed another alleged LeT militant in an encounter on 26th morning. A number of key accused were also charged for ‘waging war’ against the Indian State. Trial concluded in October 2005 and main accused Md. Ashfaqwas convicted on various counts including waging war and conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to death. Four accused were acquittedwhile another six accused were convicted for various offences and sentenced to imprisonment terms between 7 to 10 years. The case is presently before the High Court on appeal by the various accused and also for confirmation of the death sentence. The current case shows that once a person is acused ofbeing involved in a “terrorist” attack or charged with “waging war” or even or “criminal conspiracy to wage war”, it results in the judiciary relaxingprocedures and providing the investigating agency as well as the prosecution with wide latitude.

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