Church blasts case: Eight convicts escape gallows

Church blasts case: Eight convicts escape gallows

 The High Court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of all the persons in the serial church blasts cases of June-July 2000.

The court, however, commuted to life term the death penalty awarded to eight of the convicts by a special court in November 2008 on the charge of waging a war against India and creating religious disharmony.

The special court had sentenced some of the convicts to death and others to life imprisonment in connection with the blasts which took place at churches in Wadi in Kalaburagi district, Keshwapur in Hubballi district and JJ Nagar in Bengaluru during June-July 2000.

Pronouncing the judgement after hearing various criminal appeals and criminal reference cases, a division bench comprising Justice N Kumar and Justice Rathnakala upheld the lower court order of life imprisonment for some of the accused.
The eight whose sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment from death penalty are: Syed Mohammed Ibrahim who worked as an accounts manager in a private firm and is accused in the blast at the St Peter and Paul Church in JJ Nagar in Bengaluru; Izhar Baig, agarbatthi seller; Syed Abbas Ali, carpenter; Mohammed Sharafuddin, bookseller; Mohammed Khalid Chowdhury, AC mechanic; and Sheikh Ashim Ali, videographer, were accused of carrying out blasts at St Ann’s Church in Wadi; Syed Muraudin Mulah, a railway employee, and Mohammed Akil Ahmed, chilli seller, were accused of involvement in the blast at St John Lutheran Church in Keshwapur, Hubballi.

The bench, citing several Supreme Court orders, stated that the extreme penalty of death sentence need not be imposed except in the rarest case of extreme culpability. The life imprisonment is a rule and death sentence is an exception.
There was no loss of life in the incidents, and as the intention of the attackers was not to kill any person but to bring hatred among different communities, death penalty was modified and reduced to life imprisonment.

The bench said the accused were the members of Deendar Anjuman Ashram and were bound to a common philosophy – Islam is the only religion in the world and believed in the prophecy India would become an Islamic state.

The accused had generated pamphlets meant to bring disharmony between Hindus and Christians to create communal disturbance in the entire country, it said.

The order states that as Deendar Anjuman is now a banned organisation, it is of utmost importance that “a strong message is to be sent to all these misguided, evil-minded elements in the society and in particular, the youth of the Muslim community, to desist from indulging in any such anti-national activities, lest the entire community gets a bad name. This is a country and State, which equally belongs to all religious denominations.”

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