The Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to consider on merit the appeals filed by four men sentenced to life imprisonment for the militant attack on the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, in 2005.
A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara, however, expressed a disinclination to confine the matter to the point of the sentence.
"We have received some reports, which are not very encouraging. We would prefer to hear your appeals," the bench told senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, advocates Sidharth Dave, Nithya Ramakrishnan and Farrukh Rasheed.
In December 2011, the trial court had sentenced them to seven years' imprisonment but in May 2016, the High Court of Karnataka increased the quantum of punishment to the life sentence, holding them guilty of conspiracy for waging war on the country.
On the convicts' appeals, the apex court, on October 21, 2016, issued a notice to the Karnataka government on the point of the sentence. Subsequently, it sought reports from the state government to assess the convicts' mental condition in order to ascertain if they belonged to any radical organisation. It later sought a report from the NIA, too.
Going through different reports, the court decided to hear the matter on merit, even though the counsel had earlier contended that the convicts, jailed for about 10 years, could be released with the sentence they have already undergone.
The convicts are Mohammed Razhur Rehman alias Umesh, a native of Nalgonda in Telangana, Afsar Pasha alias Basheeruddin, of Lakkasandra in Bengaluru, Mohammed Irfan, of Mulbagal, Kolar district, and Nazmuddin alias Munna, from Chintamani, Chickballapur district.
The Bengaluru police claimed all of them belonged to the banned terror outfit, Lashkar-e-Taiba.
In their appeals, the convicts contended that the police had failed to provide any material to connect them to the banned organisation, except the statements recorded by them, which could not be relied upon as evidence.