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2008 Batla House Encounter: Delhi HC commutes Indian Mujahideen terrorist Ariz Khan’s death sentence to life term, upholds conviction

According to a March 2021 trial court verdict, the case qualified for the death penalty at the maximum level because it was counted in the rarest of the rare category

The Delhi High Court lowered the Indian Mujahideen terrorist Ariz Khan’s death sentence to life imprisonment in the 2008 Batla House Encounter case on 12 October. Ariz Khan had been found guilty in the high-profile incident in which the esteemed inspector Mohan Chand Sharma of the Delhi Police lost his life. A bench of Justices Siddharth Mridul and Amit Sharma delivered the order.

His conviction was affirmed, however, the judges partially granted his appeal by lowering the punishment. The court stated, “In view of the ongoing discussion, Judgement of conviction is upheld. The sentence of death imposed by is however not confirmed. The order dated March 15 is modified to that extent. The appeal is allowed in part.”

According to a March 2021 trial court verdict, the case qualified for the death penalty at the maximum level because it was counted in the rarest of the rare category. The High Court had reserved its decision in August following the hearing from the Delhi Police and the perpetrator’s attorneys.

A team of Delhi Police officers, some without weapons conducted a raid at Batla House on 19 September 2000 in order to apprehend Indian Mujahideen terrorists. The serial blasts that occurred at several locations in Delhi which resulted in at least 30 fatalities a week earlier were carried out by the terrorists.

The prosecution charged that a shootout broke out when the Delhi Police team arrived at Batla House. The cops had no alternative but to use fire as self-defence after ending up confined in the drawing room of the aforementioned house. Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma and other officers were shot during the operation. The former lost his life and head constable Balwant was injured in the shooting.

Two of the terrorists, including Ariz Khan were able to flee the apartment by the entrance while the other one who was present in the drawing room was wounded by bullets. Furthermore, the police did not open fire on Mohammed Saif who had locked himself inside the washroom and later surrendered before them.

Atif Amin and Mohammad Sajid were killed in the face-off while Ariz Khan and three others managed to abscond. Ariz Khan was eventually apprehended in 2018 near the Nepal border after being labelled a proclaimed offender in 2009. He had a reward of 10 lakh rupees from the NIA and 5 lakh from the Delhi Police on any information leading to his arrest. Two other terrorists, Shahzad is serving life imprisonment whereas Junaid who had escaped is still at large.

The trial court determined in its ruling that he was not only a menace to society but also an enemy of the state because of the heinous and savage act of firing on the police party without any provocation. He displayed no indications of change or penitence throughout the inquiry and trial. He was involved in various blast cases including Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Uttar Pradesh which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent people and injured many others.

The court pronounced, “Convict on account of his despicable act has forfeited his right to live. After balancing mitigating circumstances against aggravating circumstances, it is concluded that it is a rarest of the rare case where convict deserves maximum sentence provided under law. It is the level of magnitude, decree of brutality, attitude and mindset of the wrongdoer behind the crime alongwith other factors which make it a rarest of the rare case. Interest of justice will be met if convict is awarded death penalty.”

Ariz Khan was also given a fine of Rs. 11 lakh of which Rs. 10 lakh was to be paid as compensation to the wife of the deceased police officer. The Delhi High Court was then asked to confirm the death penalty in the case. He had submitted an appeal in opposition to the ruling.

He was convicted of killing Mohan Chand Sharma at the encounter at South East Delhi’s Batla House by Delhi’s Saket Court in May 2021. He was deemed culpable by Additional Sessions Judge Sandeep Yadav of violating sections 186, 333, 353, 302 and 397 of the Indian Penal Code as well as section 27 of the Arms Act.

Ariz Khan was represented by lawyers MS Khan, Prashant Prakash, Quasar Khan, and Rahul Sahan. Special Counsel Rajesh Mahajan together with advocates Asha Tiwari, Jyoti Babbar, Ranjeeb Kamal Bora, and Kuldeep Chauhan represented the Delhi Police.

Sonia Gandhi shed tears for terrorists and opposition leaders cast aspersions

Salman Khurshid, a veteran Congress leader and former external affairs minister conveyed that Sonia Gandhi, the then-Congress President sobbed uncontrollably when she saw the photos of the terrorists who had been assassinated during one of his rallies during the 2012 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.

He announced, “When we showed Sonia Gandhi the images of the ‘instance’ she started crying bitterly and with folded hands. She requested us not to show her these pictures and immediately go and speak with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to discuss the matter. I talked to the PM and it was decided that the matter would be further investigated.”

Salman Khurshid, however, recanted his statement in 2019 and argued that it was taken out of context. “I never said that. In fact, I was misquoted. There was a difference between what I had said and what the media projected. I had said that the then Congress President didn’t wish to see visuals of an encounter (as the images are painful in nature).”

An independent probe of the Batla House encounter was called for Aam Aadmi Party supremo and Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal who put into question the veracity of the matter. “The court has ruled that the youth (killed in the Batla House incident) were terrorists. I had said that even if they were terrorists, it was extremely important to catch them alive to know who their real handlers were. There needs to be an independent investigation to know if it was necessary to kill them. It must also be probed under what circumstances the police officer (Mohan Chand) was killed.” He called the encounter fake and alleged that his party members like Prashant Bhushan have been fighting battles for Muslims trapped in false cases such as Batla House.

Mamata Banerjee, the head of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and West Bengal Chief Minister even threatened to end her political career if her claim that the Batla House encounter was fake turned out to be untrue back in 2008. “The encounter was fake. If it turns out to be false, then I will leave politics.”

Digvijaya Singh, another stalwart leader of the Congress refused to apologise to the Bharatiya Janta Party for his accusation that the Batla House encounter was staged. “I will never apologise. I still maintain that encounter was fake,” he boasted while addressing the media in July 2013 during his visit to Indore. He emphasised once more that anyone dissatisfied with the outcome of the Batla House case can appeal to the Court.

He had been calling for a judicial inquiry into the matter and claimed, “I have not seen the court order, nor am I one of the parties in the case. The parties in the case can accept it or appeal against it. It will be their decision.”

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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