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Focus now on six more militants awaiting clemency

New Delhi, Feb 10, 2013, DHNS: 2:28 IST

List includes a Pakistani and assassins of Rajiv Gandhi

File photo. For representation purpose only
With the two perpetrators of two audacious terror attacks – 26/11 Mumbai and Parliament attack – executed in less than three months, the focus is now on the fate of at least six more militants.

They include a Pakistani, waiting for the outcome of their clemency petition filed in cases of assassination of a former prime minister and a chief minister and targeting Red Fort in the national capital.

While Balwant Singh Rajoana was handed capital punishment for his role in the assassination of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar is on death row for triggering a blast in the capital in 1993 near the cavalcade of then youth Congress leader Maninderjit Singh Bitta, killing several persons and Pakistani national Mohammad Arif alias Ashfaq in the December 2000 Red Fort attack.

The remaining three – Murugan, Santhan and Arivu – were awarded capital punishment for their role in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The death sentence, however, of Murugan’s wife, Nalini, was commuted to life-term.

Bhullar’s case is pending before the Supreme Court as he challenged the Presidential nod to his hanging on May 25, 2011, on the grounds that he was suffering from severe depressive episodes and psychotic symptoms with suicide risks and inordinate delay in deciding his fate.

Other petitions have also been tagged with his in the apex court since there are many convicts who are languishing in jails for years.

For the first time, Bhullar had filed a mercy petition in 2003 after the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence for attempting to take the life of Congress leader Maninderjit Singh Bitta, killing several persons.

Pakistan national Mohammed Arif alias Ashfaq is awaiting the gallows after the apex court confirmed his death sentence two years ago, in the Red Fort attack, killing three Army personnel, which the judges had described as “an attack on Mother India”.

The Delhi High Court had earlier confirmed the death sentence awarded to Ashfaq by the trial court but had let off other six accused, including his wife Rehamana Yusuf Farooqui and Srinagar-based father-and-son duo Nazir Ahmed Qasid and Farooq Ahmed Qasid who had been sentenced to life.

As per information sought through an RTI query some time ago, as many as 91 convicts on death row had appealed for clemency since 1981. Of them, 35 petitions were accepted during previous President Pratibha Devisingh Patil’s tenure that began in 2007.

After taking over as president, Pranab Mukherjee has rejected the mercy plea of three convicts, of Ajmal Kasab for his role in the 26/11 which led to his hanging, of Saibanna Ningappa Natikar for murdering his wife and daughter and now that of Afzal Guru for his role in the Parliament attack.

Natikar's mercy plea was rejected on January 4 and he is languishing in the central prison at Belgaum in Karnataka.

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