New Delhi: Putting the curtains down on 38-year-old criminal appeals pending before it, the Delhi High Court today upheld the conviction of two Anandmargis Santosh Anand Avdhoot and Sudevanand Avdhoot and 10-year jail term given to them for attempting to assassinate then Chief Justice of India A N Ray near the Supreme Court in 1975.
The High Court, however, set free third convict Ranjan Dwivedi, a lawyer, of the charge of conspiring with convicts Santosh Anand and Sudevanand to bomb the car of the then CJI on the evening of March 20, 1975.
The appeals against the trial court`s judgement were filed in the High Court in 1976 and the hearing commenced in 2006, after the lapse of three decades.
Justice S P Garg, in his 201-page verdict, termed the offence as "the most foul and senseless murderous attack" on the CJI and said the convicts did not deserve any leniency on any grounds including the delay in judicial process.
The convicts, who remained in jail for eleven years from 1975 to 1986 when they got bail, have been awarded ten years rigorous jail term under section 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC.
In a separate offence of conspiracy under section 120B of the IPC, the court reduced the seven years jail term, earlier awarded by the trial court, to four years.
The two convicts have now been directed to surrender before the trial court on August 21 to serve the remaining sentence of three years as the sentences of 10 and four years were not concurrent.
"Considering the gravity of the offence whereby sinister attempt was made on the life of the then Chief Justice of India in a well planned conspiracy with the use of highly sophisticated explosives (hand grenades), the convicts A-1 (Santosh Anand) and A-3 (Sudevanand) deserve no leniency", it said.
The court said that a "befitting" punishment would serve the ends of justice.
"Despite claiming to be followers of the `Organisation` (Anand Margi) which did not preach violence, the convicts indulged in the most foul and senseless murderous attack/ assault on the Chief Justice of India," it said.
The CBI had said that the two Anandmargis had thrown hand grenades inside the official car of the then CJI A N Ray at a traffic intersection of Tilak Marg and Bhagwan Das Marg near the apex court premises around 4.15 pm on March 20, 1975, but they did not explode.