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Mercy petition of Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Arif convicted in 2000 Red Fort attack case rejected by President Droupadi Murmu

As per the President's secretariat statement of 29th May, the appeal submitted by Arif on 15th May was dismissed on 27th May.

The mercy petition of Mohammed Arif, alias Ashfaq, a Pakistani terrorist found guilty in the nearly 24-year-old Red Fort attack case has been denied by President Droupadi Murmu. Since taking office on 25th July 2022, this is the President’s second rejection of a mercy petition. On 3rd November of the same year, the Supreme Court denied Arif’s petition for a review, upholding the death sentence that had been imposed.

Legal experts believe that a death row defendant could still petition the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution to have their sentence commuted on the grounds of protracted delay, even though the mercy request was rejected. As per the President’s secretariat statement of 29th May, the appeal submitted by Arif on 15th May was dismissed on 27th May.

The Supreme Court underlined the direct threat that the assault on the Red Fort posed to the nation’s unity, integrity and sovereignty while maintaining the death penalty and noting the lack of favourable mitigating circumstances in Arif’s favour. Three Army personnel were killed in the 22nd December 2000 attack which involved terrorists opening fire on the 7 Rajputana Rifles regiment stationed inside the Red Fort grounds. Four days following the incident, Delhi Police detained Arif, a citizen of Pakistan and a member of the banned Islamic outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

The apex court in 2022 pointed out, “Appellant-accused Mohd. Arif alias Ashfaq was a Pakistani national and had entered the Indian territory illegally.” After Arif was found guilty of planning the attack alongside other terrorists, the trial court convicted him in October 2005. The verdict was confirmed in later appeals by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. The trial court had stated that the two conspirators’ home in Srinagar, where Arif and three other LeT terrorists had stayed after entering the country illegally in 1999 was the meeting place for the plot to attack the Red Fort.

Separate face-offs resulted in the deaths of the three terrorists, Abu Shaad, Abu Bilal, and Abu Haider who had also infiltrated the monument. Arif’s request for mercy was rejected in spite of several judicial challenges, such as reviews and curative petitions, underscoring the gravity of the offence and the danger it posed to national security. In September 2007, the Delhi High Court upheld the lower court’s ruling. Arif then contested the high court’s decision in the Supreme Court.

In August 2011, the Supreme Court also decided in support of the death penalty order that had been given to him. Later, in August 2012, his review petition was heard by a two-judge panel of the highest court, which dismissed it. In January 2014, a plea for curative measures was similarly denied. Afterwards, Arif filed a petition requesting that a bench of three judges consider review petitions in cases involving the issuance of death sentences in public.

In a September 2014 ruling, the apex court constitution panel determined that all cases in which the high court pronounced the death penalty should be brought before a three-judge bench. The review and curative petitions of death row inmates were resolved in chamber processes by circulation prior to the September 2014 order, rather than being heard in public tribunals. A constitution bench announced in January 2016 that Arif could request, within a month, a reopening of the dismissal of the review petitions for a public court hearing. On 3rd November 2022, the Supreme Court issued a judgment rejecting the review petition.

Notably, President Murmu took a tough stand against cases of horrific crimes last year when she denied another mercy appeal in a different case, setting the precedent for this decision.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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