| Safdar Hashmi
New Delhi, Nov. 5: A Ghaziabad court today awarded life terms to all 10 accused for a fatal attack on theatre activist Safdar Hashmi as he performed a street play 14 years ago.
The accused were found guilty yesterday of murdering Hashmi on January 1, 1989 as he staged a street play, Halla Bol, in Sahibabad’s Jhandapur village.
Additional district sessions judge Chandra Deo Rai handed over life terms today to Mukesh Sharma, Devi Saran Sharma, Jitendra, Ram Avtar, Vinod Singh, Yunus Ali, Tahir Hussien, Ramesh, Karan Singh and Bhagat Bahadur.
Bhagat, who has been on the run since the day of the murder, was declared a proclaimed offender. Rai asked the prosecution to maintain records pertaining to Bhagat. Two others — Lakhi Ram and Surjit Singh Nagar — died while the trial was on.
At the time of the murder, Mukesh was the Congress candidate for the mayor’s post.
The play which Hashmi was performing was aimed at attracting voters for Ramanand Jha, Mukesh’s rival for the mayor’s post.
On the day of the murder, Mukesh arrived at the play venue leading an election procession. He asked the performers to make way for the procession.
On being told to wait till the play got over or take another route, Mukesh retreated only to return with 11 others, armed with weapons. The audience and the performers were assaulted and Hashmi chased and thrashed.
Jha, who had run into the house of a labourer, Ram Bahadur, was beaten there and Bahadur was shot dead.
Hashmi was rushed to a Ghaziabad hospital and later to Delhi, but died the next day.
The 10 were sentenced for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.
They were also sentenced for one year on charges of rioting under Section 147 and attracted five years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5,000 for trespassing under Section 452.
The convicts will undergo another five-month sentence for voluntarily causing hurt under Section 323. Mukesh will face an additional one-year term under Section 148 for rioting and being armed with a deadly weapon.
The court spared the other nine accused from charges under Section 149 (being members of unlawful assembly guilty of causing offence).
Public prosecutor Mahendra Mudgal had argued that the murder should be treated as “the rarest of the rare case” since an innocent labourer (Bahadur) had been killed for no fault of his. “Society was deprived of a creative brain due to the death of Hashmi,” Mudgal said.
But the judge did not treat Hashmi’s murder as a rare case warranting a death penalty. He agreed that it “symbolised criminalisation of politics”.
Defence lawyer J.P. Sharma had argued that Hashmi’s was not a clear-cut murder case, but the result of a scuffle.
Pleading for leniency, he said the murder occurred when a crowd pelted stones to clear the road “blocked” by the actors.
He also pointed to a “difference in versions” among the witnesses, including that of Hashmi’s wife Moloyashri.