New Delhi: Suspected Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorist Shahzad Ahmad, convicted in the 2008 Batla House encounter case, was on Tuesday sentenced to life imprisonment by a Delhi court, which said the case does not fall under the rarest of rare category warranting death penalty.
Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Rajender Kumar Shastri handed down life term to Shazad for killing decorated police officer Inspector M C Sharma and injuring two other cops. Shahzad was also slapped with a fine of Rs.95,000 of which Rs.40,000 will be given to Sharma`s family.
Shahzad, 25, was convicted in the September 19, 2008 encounter when a team of Delhi Police Special Cell raided the Batla House flat in Jamia Nagar in south Delhi following a tip-off that terrorists allegedly involved in the September 13, 2008 serial blasts in the capital were holed up there.
The court denied police`s plea for death penalty saying the case does not fall under the rarest of rare category as the mitigating circumstances outweigh the aggravating ones.
"Ruminating on the facts of the case and also the circumstances of the convict, I find mitigating circumstances more than aggravating ones and hence the case in hand is not a `rarest of the rare case`, which warrants death penalty upon the convict," the judge said.
The aggravating circumstances cited by the court were obstructing police officers from doing their job by attacking them and in this case killing one--Inspector M C Sharma-- and attempting to kill others.
One of the several mitigating circumstances enumerated by the court were that the incident at Flat No.108, L-18, Batla House, was not premeditated and occurred on the spur of the moment.
"Police is an integral part of our life. While in any peril, we rely upon the police. When we sleep, police awakes. It ensures our safety day and night... Law obliges every person to assist the police in apprehending the suspect, whom the police is authorised to arrest.
"There can be no deeper wound on rule of law than to attack a police officer, while discharging his official duty. The convict of this case has been held guilty of obstructing police officers... This is an aggravating circumstance against the accused," the judge noted in his order on sentence.
It also noted that death of Inspector M C Sharma had shocked the collective conscience of the entire nation.
Shahzad is also facing trial in the serial blasts case. The multiple blasts had left 26 dead and 133 injured.
The judge also considered as mitigating circumstances factors like Shahzad not having been convicted in any other case and his conduct during trial.
The fact that Shazad is a young boy aged about 25 years and the possibility of his reformation were also considered by the court as mitigating circumstances.
Out of the fine of Rs 95,000, Rs 20,000 will go to Head Constable Balwant Singh, who was injured in the encounter. The court had yesterday reserved its verdict on the quantum of sentence to be awarded to Shahzad after hearing arguments from the prosecution and the defence.
The prosecution had sought death penalty while the defence counsel had pleaded for leniency and a chance for reformation of the convict.
The Delhi Police had argued for capital punishment on the ground that he had killed and injured on-duty police officers and was involved in various other heinous crimes, including the Delhi serial blastsnearly five years back.
Special Public Prosecutor Satwinder Kaur had contended that there was no scope for reformation of Shahzad and equated his case with that of Devenderpal Singh Bhullar and Ajmal Kasab who were awarded death penalty and the same was upheld by the Supreme Court.
On the other hand, Shahzad`s advocate Satish Tamta had said death sentence can be awarded only in rarest of rare cases and this one did not fall under that category.
On July 25, Shahzad was convicted for the offences of murder, attempting to cause death and various other provisions of the IPC and the Arms Act.
The court had also found him guilty of assaulting police officers and obstructing them from doing their duty.