Amid strong opposition from Human Rights activists, a special court in Lucknow convicted two accused Tariq Qasmi and Mohammad Akhtar alias Tariq Hussain for life imprisonment in connection with 2007 court blast case in the state capital and imposed a heavy fine of 5.21 lakh on them.
The judgment pronounced by Special Judge Babita Rani, on August 23, held the HuJI operatives, Qasmi and Akhtar, guilty under the Explosive Substances Act, the Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and sedition, criminal conspiracy and attempted murder under IPC. Both the accused have already completed jail terms of 11 years.
The third alias in this case, Sajjadur Rehman, was given a clean chit by the court. While, the fourth accused, Khalid Mujahid, was found dead under mysterious circumstances during the trial in the police custody.
On November 23, 2007, 13 people lost their lives when a series of RDX bombs planted on the parked bicycles went off at the court premises of Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi. The police had earlier confirmed that the blasts were jointly carried out by the operatives of Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) and Indian Mujahideen.
The court has said that the accused had not only “attacked the judiciary but also conspired to wage war against the country, which is serious offences.” Demand for the death penalty was raised by Joint Director of ATS Subhash Chandra Singh and senior public prosecutor Atul Kumar Ojha, while the lawyers of the convicts, Arif Ali and Furkan Khan, pleaded for leniency, saying they had been in jail for last 11 years.
However, Human Rights activists including Ramon Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey and Arundhati Dhuru, retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri, Advocates Randhir Singh Sumar and Mohammad Shoaib (also the president of Rihai Manch) opposed the judgement in a press conference, alleging that the accused have not been granted a fair trial as judgement suffers from procedural and factual infirmities. They resolved to challenge the verdict in high court on merits.
Shoaib has also written to state’s DG Police expressing serious threat of life to these convicts in the jail as a judicial commission headed by RD Nimesh found cracks in the Uttar Pradesh police theory related to the alleged involvement of Qasmi and deceased Mujahid in terror activities.
The commission has said, “the involvement of the accused in the incident mentioned in the case (crime number 1891/2007) registered in Kotwali police station in Barabanki appeared doubtful.”
On August 31, 2012, the 237-page Nimesh Commission report was tabled in the Vidhan Sabha after it was submitted to the Samajwadi Party government.
Government lawyers Pravin Srivastav and MK Singh said that the accused had been charged for sedition, criminal conspiracy and attempt to murder which were offences under the Indian Penal Code. Three witnesses have been examined from the 44 witnesses produced in this case before the District Jail in Lucknow where the trial was going on.
On December 22, 2007, Tariq Qasmi was arrested by STF Mohammad Akhtar of Kashmir was arrested on December 27.
Earlier, the STF had informed that the four accused were the operatives of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI). Mohammad Tariq was accused for a blast in Gorakhpur, UP, in May 2007. The Lucknow court blast was transferred to the anti-terror squad (ATS) which submitted the charge-sheet against the accused in April 2008.
However, in the Varanasi court blast case, the police are yet to ascertained any information and arrest the culprits.