The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Protection & pat for death row judge

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Frustrated with the long delays in judicial procedure and the “soft” approach towards terrorism, India’s security establishment has welcomed the decision to award death sentence — under the Prevention of Terrorism Act — to three of those convicted in last year’s attack on Parliament.

“For too long, people who have provided the support structure to terrorists have got away. We just hope this won’t be a one-off judgment,” a senior official in the North Block said.

However, officials fear the verdict may not be replicated in other states, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir where it matters the most.

The Patiala House court, where the judgment was delivered, was placed under a blanket of security with snipers surrounding the complex. Special judge S.N. Dhingra arrived under heavy escort.

In Kashmir, however, it will be much tougher for judges to take such decisions.

Even if security is provided for them during the hearing and, perhaps, for a few months later, judges cannot be protected round the clock. Besides, most judges working out of the state will not dare incur the wrath of terrorists.

North Block officials say judges in Delhi could not have taken a softer line as this was an emotive case where the life of the Prime Minister and the entire political establishment was at stake.

“One swallow does not make a summer, so we should not see too much into yesterday’s verdict,” a senior official said on Thursday.

What is important now, he said, is to ensure that the case does not linger. The high court and the Supreme Court should dispose of the appeal as quickly as possible for the sentence to be effective as a deterrent, the official added.

“All supporters of terrorists and those who help them must be able to draw hard conclusions from the death sentence. People will hesitate to be involved if they know they can be hanged for their crime,” said a police officer.

Security agencies believe it is time for both the government and the people to wake up to the new security threat that the country is facing. Unless this is done and the mindset of the nation as a whole changes, terrorists will continue to have a field day.

However, there is also a flip side to this. Pakistan can effectively turn the verdict to its advantage, according to a section of the North Block officials.

The Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e Toiba can cite the judgment to make their point that no justice can be achieved from the Indian legal system.

The change in government after the Assembly polls had given rise to a new mood of hope in the Valley. However, it can easily turn sullen if the verdict is interpreted as anti-Kashmir.

Security for Dhingra

Dhingra, who pronounced the death sentence, has been provided Z-plus security by Delhi police.

The home ministry will not hesitate to endorse the highest security cover for the judge once the final proposal comes from Delhi police, senior officials in the ministry said.

Militants had gunned down a sessions judge in Kashmir, Neel Kanth Ganjoo, who had awarded death penalty to Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Maqbool Bhat.

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