The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Life term for killers of activist

New Delhi, Feb. 2: The Supreme Court has convicted three Jamait-ul-Mujahideen militants of murdering human rights activist H.N. Wanchoo in 1992, on the basis of their confessional statements recorded under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act.

A bench of Justices S.N. Variava and V.N. Agrawal sentenced them to life imprisonment.

A Jammu Tada court had acquitted Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, lecturer Shafiq Khan and Gulam Qadir, citing legal lacunae in the chargesheet filed against them. Later, the CBI had filed an appeal in the apex court.

The state government’s counsel pleaded for showing leniency to Khan, stating he was a lecturer who joined the militant group under duress. The apex court rejected the state’s “healing touch” plea, observing that Khan’s case was fit for life imprisonment.

The militants kidnapped Wanchoo from his Srinagar home in November 1992, took him to Bal garden and shot him dead. The CBI had chargesheeted 12 people, of which four died and five were declared absconders.

The Tada court had objected to four major flaws in the chargesheet. This included police’s failure to verify whether the accused were voluntarily making the confessional statements, and the statements being recorded in Hindi, which is not the court’s official language. It concluded that the accused were not given a chance to alter their statements.

But the apex court said the confessions were in conformity with the provisions of the law.

The bench, in fact, went on to say that the Tada court was wrong on all four counts.

The bench observed that the accused, in their confessional statements, admit their role in the conspiracy to kill the rights activist. The apex court said Qadir had actually given orders in writing to kill Wanchoo.

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