HC allows POTA convict to walk free after 10 years in jail
New Delhi: A POTA convict, who was awarded a 14-year jail-term for role in Hizbul Mujahideen funding and has been incarcerated for a decade, will be able to walk free after Delhi High Court modified the sentence saying maximum punishment for the offence was "severe and harsh" on him.
A division bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Siddharth Mridul upheld the conviction of Zafar Umar Khan, a Jammu and Kashmir resident, under the stringent anti-terror law Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and the Arms Act but directed that he would be released on the sentence undergone for the offence under POTA.
The court noted that the tragedy of losing a young son, who fell to the bullets of militants, would have adversely impacted Khan's personal life and there "is nothing on record" to suggest that he himself had carried out any terrorist attack.
"The appellant (Khan) has been in detention since May 13, 2003 and has suffered incarceration for nearly 10 years... We are, therefore, inclined to modify the order of sentence and direct that Khan would be released on the sentence undergone for the offence under the POTA (sentence of nearly 9 years and 10 months)," the court said.
It uphold the conviction and sentence under the Arms Act and asked the convict to pay fine of Rs 10,000 each for the offence under Section 22(2) of POTA and the Arms Act.
"We feel that the maximum sentence of fourteen years for offence under Section 22(2) POTA is considerably severe and harsh on the appellant," the court said and considered the prosecution version that Khan lost his son to bullets of terrorists and his uncle also died under suspicious circumstances.
"He was aggrieved as suitable ex gratia payments were not made on his son's death. The tragedy of losing a young son would have adversely impacted appellant's personal life," the court said in the judgement.
Khan was arrested on May 13, 2003 for receiving the cash amount of Rs four lakh from a man as a 'hawala' transaction under the directives of terrorist group Hizbul Mujahideen.
The court observed saying "the evil consequences and pernicious effect of being involved in funding or passing on money for the purpose of terrorism cannot be understated. Terrorism affects the very fabric of the society and results in needless violence and loss of lives."
"It is noticeable that the appellant got involved with the terrorists in the month of November, 2002 till he was caught and arrested. There is nothing on record to suggest that he himself had carried out any terrorist attack. His guilt is reflected in the confession statement from which he has not retracted.
"The appellant, therefore, can be given the benefit that he has repented and would not indulge in any such activities in future," the bench said.
The trial court on January 4, 2011 had awarded 14 years jail to Khan and took into account his confessional statement which confirmed that he had received the cash amount.
Khan was nabbed by Special Cell of the Delhi Police near Vir Bhoomi in the national capital in May 2003, with four lakh, a pistol and nine live cartridges.