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‘Realisation is same as jail’: Delhi HC reduces life sentence of 5 JeM terrorists to 10 years, cites Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’

Author: OpIndia Staff
Publication: OpIndia.com
Date: May 21, 2024
URL:   https://www.opindia.com/2024/05/delhi-hc-reduces-life-sentence-of-5-jem-terrorists-to-10-years-cites-fyodor-dostoyevskys-crime-and-punishment/?s

"They have been held guilty, primarily, for conspiring, and not for committing any terror act as such. Indubitably, while deciding the quantum, the court is required to strike a balance," the bench said.

Referring to a quote from Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s book “Crime and Punishment,” the Delhi High Court on Monday (20th May) altered and decreased the sentence granted to five members of the terror organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). The court reduced the punishment from life imprisonment to ten years of prison time for the offense under Section 121A of the Indian Penal Code.

A division bench consisting of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Manoj Jain disposed the appeals filed by Bilal Ahmad Mir, Sajjad Ahmad Khan, Muzaffar Ahmad Bhat, Mehraj-ud-Din Chopan, and Ishfaq Ahmad Bhatt challenging the trial court’s ruling providing them sentences of life imprisonment.

The bench additionally reduced the sentence from life imprisonment to rigorous imprisonment for ten years for violating Section 23 of the UAPA. “The man who has a conscience suffers whilst acknowledging his sin. We refer to a quote by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the author of “Crime and Punishment” and in chapter 19, Dostoevsky writes that “if he has a conscience he will suffer for his mistake; that will be punishment- as well as the prison,” the court said.

In 2022, the trial court convicted the five terrorists of numerous charges under the IPC and UAPA. They all pleaded guilty. They were sentenced on November 28, 2022.

The NIA had submitted that they were highly radicalized Over Ground Workers of Jaish-e-Mohammed who had committed multiple terrorist activities in India.

The bench stated unequivocally that the nature of the allegations was serious and worrisome, and the gravity of the acts could not be overstated. However, it stressed that there was no evidence that they had undertaken any terrorist acts.

“They have been held guilty, primarily, for conspiring, and not for committing any terror act as such. Indubitably, while deciding the quantum, the court is required to strike a balance,” the bench said.

“There is nothing on record which may suggest that they are beyond redemption. India has shown enough of progression in all spheres and our justice delivery system is no exception. It also strongly believes that, more often than not, the eventual consequence of any penal sanction should be to reform any individual, instead of shutting him out by putting him inside for life,” the court said.

“Unfortunately, there are no sentencing guidelines that may assist the court in selecting the most appropriate sentence, minimum or maximum or one falling between the two. Therefore, at times, there is no uniformity. This is also because of the reason that the facts of any two cases would never be same and similar,” it added.

Furthermore, the bench stated that, while the convicted did not deserve unreasonable compassion, the life sentence was not warranted given their frank confession at the first chance, their comparatively clean backgrounds, inclination to rehabilitation, and their young age.

It further stated that the trial court was persuaded by the gravity of the claims and did not consider the fact that the convicts were remorseful and pleaded guilty at the first available moment.

“Considering the same, coupled with their young age and the fact that they don’t have any other conviction to their credit, the approach of the learned Trial Court should have been rather that of reforming them which it even noted in the impugned judgment, albeit, not translated into reality, and, therefore, it is a fit case where the sentence awarded under Section 121A IPC and Section 23 UAPA needs to be reduced,” the court said.

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